For people with arthritis, exercise can exacerbate pain. Gentle, range-of-motion exercise helps arthritis but it doesn't burn enough calories to lose weight. Is there advice with regard to weight loss for people with arthritis, living a sedentary lifestyle? How can arthritis patients lose weight when exercise triggers more pain?
Exercise Advice for All People
In the general population, weight loss has been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol, decreasing the incidence of cardiovascular disease. In the arthritis patient, weight loss is the most important way to decrease the risk of osteoarthritis in the knees and hip osteoarthritis. While exercise is an important aspect of weight control, diet (i.e. watching calories and fat intake) is the most important factor.
Benefits of Aerobic Exercise
An Exercise Regimen That Works for You
It is important to find a type of exercise that is enjoyable and practical so you will stick with it. The best exercise for people with arthritis of the lower extremities (i.e., feet, knees, and hips) includes:
- water aerobics
- water walking
A recumbent or stationary bike is also a reasonable alternative. If the lower extremities are not affected by arthritis, walking on a street, track, or treadmill is a good option. Patients with joint replacement of the hips and knees should consult their surgeon for advice on using treadmills or other gym equipment.
For patients who are trying to cope with pain and fatigue, aerobic exercise may be the last thing on their mind. Ironically, it is the one intervention that will help them the most, without the potential side effects of arthritis medications.
Listen to Your Body
It is important to be aware of how you feel after you exercise. If you feel worse the day after you exercise, then you may have done too much or the activity is not right for you. Arthritis patients should slowly work up to 40 minutes per day, 4-5 days per week. Your initial goals should be to:
- choose appropriate types of exercise considering your limitations
- gradually increase the intensity or duration of your exercise regimen
- adapt and adjust your exercise regimen as needed
- be mindful of why you exercise (i.e., overall better health, not just for the sake of appearance)
Dr. Zashin is clinical assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas and Plano. Dr. Zashin is author of Arthritis Without Pain - The Miracle Of TNF Blockers. The book is useful for anyone on one of the biologic drugs or considering the biologic drugs.