A sedentary lifestyle means you are sitting or resting most of the time. A sedentary lifestyle is not healthy. For people with arthritis, sedentary is definitely not the way to go.
- What's the problem with a sedentary lifestyle?
- How does it make arthritis worse instead of better?
- How can people living a sedentary lifestyle get out of that rut?
It's a concept that many arthritis patients have trouble with -- balancing rest and activity. Many arthritis patients who live with chronic pain find it hard not to fall into the sedentary lifestyle trap. Pain causes a person to become less active, and less activity increases pain. It's truly a vicious cycle.
Sedentary Lifestyle Can Make You Worse
Even among arthritis patients who recognize that a sedentary lifestyle is not optimal, it's hard to discern the right amount of activity. Does it depend on the individual and the severity of their arthritis? Is there such a thing as too much activity, just as there is too little activity?
Rheumatologist Scott J. Zashin, MD, said, "For patients with arthritis, a sedentary lifestyle may actually help patients feel better -- at least temporarily. For example, it's not uncommon for a patient with severe arthritis to experience less pain after being in the hospital for a few days. Yet, while there is short term relief, in the long run, a sedentary lifestyle may lead to obesity and increased pain in weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. Also, many patients who are not active are more likely to experience depression which is often associated with increased pain and fatigue."
Physical Activity Has Benefits
Dr. Zashin continued, "Physical activity has many positive attributes including better sleep, lower body weight, and improved mood -- all of which help improve arthritis pain. The right level of exercise and activity does depend on the individual. If a patient tends to have increased pain the day after an activity or exercise, they probably did too much. Physical activity or exercise should always begin gradually to determine what level is best for you."
It is difficult to become more physically active if you have been living a sedentary lifestyle. Consider these tips:
- getting an exercise partner to help motivate you
- having a dog is a good way to get motivated to walk
- joining a group exercise program (a health club, YMCA or YWCA, or program sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation)
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.