Everyday I talk to individuals who think their exercising days are over because of osteoarthritis, which is a condition that involves the wearing of joint cartilage and often causes pain in the affected joints. In reality, exercising can be extremely helpful for arthritic joints. The pain and stiffness in individuals with the condition tends to get better once the body gets moving.
However, because of the joint sensitivity involved with osteoarthritis, individuals may need to exercise differently to avoid pain. Let’s talk about that.
Resistance training with bands, dumbbells or anything with weight is great for your body and will help get your muscles stronger. The stronger your muscles, the better they’re able to support and take the pressure off of your joints. So do not be scared of the weight room. Just be cautious of lifting weights that are too heavy and pushing past your comfortable range of motion.
I would advice that you do all exercises with your bodyweight first, then start incorporating resistance bands, and finally add in weights five pounds at a time. You need to make sure your muscles are comfortable with a certain resistance before going all out. If your muscles are not ready for a certain weight range, your joints will try to help out, and this is dangerous for joints affected by arthritis. For example, doing a shoulder press with a weight that is too heavy can irritate arthritic shoulder joints and potentially lead to a tear in the rotator cuff. Focus on using a lighter weight for a higher rep range (15-25 reps) to avoid this risk of injury.
Another thing to be cautious of is deep squats and lunges. I am not telling you to avoid these exercises. In fact, squats are such a good exercise for arthritic knees when done correctly. Just be wary of how low you get in your squats. Avoid dropping below 90° and keep in mind that you do not even need to get that low! You should feel your butt and the back of your thighs on your squats. If you do not, check in with your form. For more squat tips, reference this video and this blog post.
Avoid jumping, running and walking aggressively on pavement. Opt for low impact cardio options. Try an MFit aerobics workout or do stationary cardio on the elliptical or stationary bike. The repetitive motion involved in each of these workouts will help lubricate the joints.
If plank position and push-ups bother your joints, try doing them with your hands on a workout bench or countertop. The elevation will put less pressure on your upper body joints.
One last tip… And I cannot say this enough; a solid warm-up is the most important part of any workout. Read this post from 2019 to create the perfect warm-up routine.