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Joining a Fitness Club or Gym Can Benefit People With Arthritis

Programs Specifically for People With Arthritis

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Updated May 20, 2012

Exercise is an essential part of managing arthritis. Exercise helps to relieve joint pain, boosts energy, and helps to improve mobility and joint function. Certain exercises help strengthen the muscles which support the joints.

Even with the realization that exercise is beneficial, many people with arthritis have a hard time sticking with an exercise regimen -- especially a home exercise program which they guide themselves. Some arthritis patients will tell you that exercise hurts rather than helps their joints. Others claim they are too busy to fit exercise into their schedule on a regular basis. For whatever reason, some just can't make the commitment.

Joining a fitness club or gym may help you make the commitment to exercise. It is a misconception that only bodybuilding enthusiasts with bulging muscles and deep tans belong to fitness clubs. If you check out fitness clubs in your local area, you will find most clubs have equipment and programs for all fitness types, ranging from the unfit to the super fit. Consider the following benefits of fitness club membership. But, before you join a club, be sure you run the idea past your doctor to be sure he is in favor of it.

Structured Environment

Many people find that there are too many distractions at home which interfere with attempts to exercise. It's hard to focus when you are surrounded by other things that need your attention. If you go to a fitness center or gym, those distractions are eliminated. It is easier to focus on exercise in an environment that is solely for that purpose. When you go to a fitness center, you have allocated the necessary time and space you need to exercise.

Group Setting

At the fitness center or gym, you will be surrounded by people who are there to work out and improve their fitness, too. In a sense, you can feed off of what they are doing and become inspired. You can be motivated by the progress you see in others, as well as your own progress. The social aspect that a fitness club brings to exercise will improve your attitude and build motivation to levels you wouldn't attain if you were exercising alone at home.

Special Programs (Including Aquatic Programs)

Most fitness clubs offer a variety of programs. There is usually a trainer or instructor on premises to assess your physical ability and make recommendations regarding the programs they offer. Many of the programs are designed for people with physical limitations and some are endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation. Even in fitness clubs where there may not be as many programs offered for people with limitations, a trainer can help you modify certain exercises to better match your ability.

At fitness clubs that have pool facilities, aquatic programs are very popular among people with arthritis. Many fitness clubs offer beginning classes for yoga, Pilates, and Zumba. Check out the fitness clubs and gyms in your area to see what they offer.

Availability of Equipment

Fitness clubs and gyms have a variety of gym equipment available for your use that you likely don't have at home. You may think that most of the equipment is unsuitable because of your physical limitations. Gym equipment can be appropriate and beneficial when used properly or adapted to your limitations. Treadmills, elliptical trainers, and stationary bikes are pieces of equipment that many arthritis patients choose to use. Even if you just exercise on a mat, the fitness club environment can be beneficial.

Membership Options

You may think that fitness club memberships are cost prohibitive, especially if you are not 100% sure you will stick with it. Many gyms offer free passes and trial memberships, allowing you to try out the facility. Many fitness clubs and gyms also offer different levels of membership (see this from 24 Hour Fitness as an example of membership levels).

Look for special offers, but don't get locked into a long-term contract initially. Look for short-term membership opportunities until you are sure that the fitness club you selected suits you.

Convenient Location

Depending on where you live, you may have several fitness clubs or gyms from which to choose. Be sure you consider all of the fitness clubs that are conveniently located, not only the large, well-known, nationwide fitness chains. It is possible you may find a smaller club more suitable. Consider the convenience of the location, cost, availability of equipment, schedule of classes, and how comfortable you feel when you check out the club. Convenience of location should be a priority among the factors you consider. If you choose a club that is inconveniently located, you are giving yourself reason to quit before you even start.

Be Willing to Give It a Try!

Remember the old catch phrase, "Try it, you'll like it"? There are many arthritis patients who would never have imagined themselves in a fitness club setting, yet they discover it is a very worthwhile experience. Don't count yourself out before thoroughly exploring the possibility. Give it a chance.

Sources:

Selecting a Fitness Center. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. January 6, 2010.
http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/hwi/resources/fitness_center.htm

Choose the Right Health and Fitness Club. AARP. April 1, 2007.
http://www.aarp.org/health/fitness/info-2007/health_clubs.html

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