The sun is shining, the sky is clear, and my joints are recovering from the winter scares they experience with the cold weather. That means it’s time to get outside and enjoy being active while I can.
Beautiful summer weather brings an opportunity to enjoy certain activities we may not be able to enjoy during other times of the year. Summer is a great time to introduce new activities and exercises that may improve osteoarthritis.
Exercise is considered the single most effective non-drug treatment for reducing joint pain and improving movement in patients with arthritis. Exercise is a key strategy to relieve pain, improve energy, and strengthen muscles, which helps to better support our joints.
However, not all exercises are safe for people with arthritis because they can make this pain worse. Instead, you’ll want to choose low-impact, joint-friendly exercises. This way, you can reap the benefits of exercise while protecting your joints.
The best exercises for arthritis include range of motion exercises, strengthening exercises, and aerobic exercises. If you’ve been searching for activities for arthritis that will take it easy on your joints but still allow you to enjoy the great outdoors, then these recommendations may be for you!
- Lap swimming
- Exercises to avoid with arthritis are those that place a lot of stress on your joints (running, competitive sport activities)
If hitting the gym fits well into your routine and group fitness classes keep you motivated, these physical activities for arthritis may be ones to try. You might even find a class that takes place outside if you’re craving fresh air.
- Martial Arts
- Tai Chi
Staying motivated can be challenging at times, especially if you aren’t feeling at the top of your game. To maintain a consistent, active routine, the following may be helpful motivators:
Good music or a Podcast – Listening to something while exercising can be encouraging and uplifting. It may also pose as a helpful distraction, making the time go by quickly.
Heart rate monitor – Tracking your improvement is a great motivator! Using either a heart rate monitor or a smart phone app can turn your routine into a friendly competition with yourself and will help you see how far you’ve come.
Enlist a buddy – There is nothing more motivating than the accountability from a workout partner. Friends can also make activities much more fun and enjoyable.
Gardening offers numerous advantages to your mental and physical health. This summer activity can be safely done when you have joint pain, especially if you choose a vertical garden or raised beds. Not only do you get to practice your green thumb, but also you can lower depression and anxiety that can make your joint pain worse.
To make gardening comfortable, you’ll want to use tools that are easy on the joints. Examples include spring-loaded pruners, soaker hoses, shovel steps and tools with “O” grips. To make your garden most valuable, grow anti-inflammatory foods like berries, spinach and kale. When working in your garden, soak up the sun and fresh air for your mental health.
Evening walks with family
Each evening in the summer, try to take a walk around the neighborhood or nearby trails with your family. Walking is a good low-impact form of exercise that strengthens your muscles, bones, and joints.
I love taking walks after dinner because it always feels like a good way to prepare for bed by getting your body moving with a little easy aerobic exercise.
I realize I sleep better and can sometimes avoid the achy feeling that I get in the evenings after we take a short walk together as a family.
The benefit to doing yoga outdoors is that you get to awaken your senses and feel at peace in the world. In the summer, there are yoga classes held all over the place – along beaches, in parks, on hills, in green spaces, etc. Choose the places that bring you a sense of peace and unity with nature.
Like swimming, yoga is most effective for joint pain when it’s practiced regularly. Daily stretches improve joint flexibility, reduce tension, lower stress and decrease pain. Plus, you get dual benefits from being outdoors in nature, further improving your symptoms.
IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER
Speak with a doctor: Everyone’s arthritis symptoms are different, so it is important to start with a conversation with your orthopedic surgeon. They will be able to recommend how often you should be exercising, and which physical activities will be best for you and your needs. In general, it is best to stay as physically active as your health will allow.
- Start with a warm-up: Always begin a physical activity with a warm-up that includes stretching all major muscle groups. This will help avoid painful pulls and strains.
- Replenish fluids: Bring a water bottle with you to both inside and outside activities. Continue hydrating throughout your day and pay extra attention to the outside temperature. Exercising during the mornings and evenings in the summer can help you beat the heat.
- Be mindful of pain: If you begin to experience joint pain from your activities, discontinue the exercises causing you pain right away and speak with your doctor or physical therapist. They may give you suggestions on how to modify your exercises for arthritis or change up your routine.
Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine can be challenging, especially if you are dealing with joint pain and stiffness. Take the first step and make an appointment with your orthopedic surgeon today to help create an exercise for arthritis plan that’s right for you.