Exercise Program for Arthritis : what to look for.

Exercise program for osteoarthritis

The Arthritis Foundation emphasizes the need for an exercise program if you have arthritis.

According to the Arthritis Foundation one of the most important ways of controlling pain is to use an exercise program for arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation is a non-profit organisation who is spear heading this months National Arthritis Action Month. They do fantastic work and all the therapies I teach and recommend at The Online Arthritis Clinic is based on their treatment guidelines.

With that in mind I spent yesterday evening studying the website (the TV in New Zealand is dreadful!) and looking which is the best exercise program for arthritis.

This is what I found. Generally their website is highly informative but navigation can be a little difficult and I did get a little lost. They continually talk about the need for an exercise program for arthritis sufferers but nearly everything all the exercise demonstrations are very generalized for the whole body. The individual joint programs are limited. They don’t break down into how many repetitions of each exercise you should do or give you any sort of schedule to build up slowly. They simply say if you have increased pain within 2 hours of doing the exercises then you have probably overdone it. Bit late then and will probably put you off ever doing and exercise program for arthritis again!

I did love their general warm up exercise program for arthritis to use before activity, although I agree with the comments that some photos would have been very helpful.

I would highly recommend you do a warm up exercise program for arthritis before any activity. Activities include stuff like housework or gardening and not just a sport such as golf. A good habit to get into is that if are about to do an activity normally aggravates your arthritis then warm up for it.

This is the Foundation’s warm up exercise program for arthritis:

1. Hip Circles: Stand on one leg, using a countertop for support, and gently swing the opposite leg in circles out to the side. Perform 20 circles in each direction. Switch legs. Progressively increase the size of the circles as you become more flexible.

2. Arm Circles: Stand with feet shoulder width apart and hold arms out to the sides, palms down, at shoulder height. Gently perform 20 circles in each direction. Progressively increase the size of the circles as you become more flexible.

3. Arm Swings: Stand with arms out in front, parallel to the floor, palms facing down. Walk forward as you swing arms in unison to the right so your left arm is in front of your chest and fingers point out to the right. Keep torso and head facing forward – only move at the shoulder joints. Reverse the direction of the swing (as you keep walking) to the opposite side. Repeat 5 times on each side.

4. High-Stepping: Stand with feet parallel to each other and at shoulder-width apart. Step forward with the left leg and raise the right knee high up toward your chest (use a wall for balance, if needed) and use both hands (or one, if using the other for balance) to pull the knee up further. Pause and bring right leg back down; repeat with the other side and continue “high-stepping” 5 times on each leg as you walk forward.

5. Heel-to-Toe Walk: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and take a small step forward by placing the heel of the right foot on the ground and rolling forward onto the ball of your foot, rising as high as possible (as if standing on tip-toe), while bringing the left foot forward and stepping in the same heel-to-toe roll. Repeat 5 times on each leg.

6. Lunge with a Twist: Stand with feet parallel to each other and take an exaggerated step forward (keep one hand on a wall for balance, if needed) with your right foot, planting it fully on the floor in front of you, allowing the knee and hip to bend slowly; keep torso upright. Keep right knee directly over ankle – do not allow it to pitch forward over your foot. Slightly flex your left knee as you lower it towards the ground until it is a couple inches above the floor (or as far as flexibility allows). In this position, reach overhead with your left arm and bending torso towards the right side; return to upright and step forward with the left foot. Repeat for 5 times on each side.

Note: Do not attempt if you have trouble with balance.

7. Step Up and Over: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands on hips (or lightly touching a wall in front of you for balance). Shift weight to your left leg as you lift your right leg until thigh is parallel to the ground and then step out to the side as if stepping over an object; pause and lower into a squat (or half squat). Pushing up through the heels, stand up and return leg to starting position. Repeat 5 times on each side.

This is a great dynamic warm up exercise program for arthritis that clearly explains how much and how far to take each of the exercises.

What to look for in an exercise program for arthritis

The problem for the Foundation is that with their exercise program for arthritis have to be generalized. They have some DVDs etc on sale as well and although may be a great way to stay fit with arthritis they are not actually a therapeutic exercise program for arthritis.

They will probably suggest you see a physical therapist for an exercise program for arthritis but that can be both time consuming and financially impractical for many people.  After all many of us with arthritis are on fixed incomes. Also as you cannot cure most types of arthritis so you have to keep going to the therapist for the rest of your life!

Joint Control's exercise program for arthritis demonstrator

My demonstrator, Brian.

Another thing I found really irritating with each and every exercise program for arthritis they show on video is that they have youngish, fit flexible people demonstrating them! I could possibly have got into those position when I was a teenager but now as an overweight, middle aged woman with osteoarthritis in my spine- not a hope! I am glad I used Brian as my demonstrator for my exercise program for arthritis who was 77 when we did all the photos.

When I had finished surfing their site I decided what I was doing was right and if they ever came to my wee little blog I believe they would approve of my work.

On every page they advocate doing an exercise program for arthritis but there was very little guidance on how many of each exercise to do depending on the severity of your symptoms.  That is the biggest value I believe I offer in my one on one exercise program for arthritis.

UPDATE AUGUST 2013

I have also written a comprehensive guide on How to Treat Osteoarthritis Naturally which include 3 levels of self massage and exercise program for arthritis. They will explain when to use heat and when to cold (something missed at the Arthritis Foundation!).

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