Is Exercise Dangerous For a Person With Arthritis?

By Susan Bartlett, MD.

Answer: Not at all. The fact is that more than a third of adults with arthritis don’t exercise.

While beginning an exercise program often seems like a major undertaking for many people with arthritis, you can do it if you start slowly and maintain consistency. Here’s some practical advice from Dr. Bartlett.

How much should people with arthritis exercise?

Answer: Don't be a weekend athlete: It just doesn't work. Exercising only once a week is not productive. Fitness can be achieved and maintained if your exercise is regular, rhythmic, and continuous. Current public health guidelines recommend that all adults accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week.

Anyone can find the time to exercise even on a busy day. Exercise periods of 30 minutes, six times a week, add up to a mere three hours out of the 168 hours in the week. You can, for example, ride your stationary exercise bike while watching the news on TV; go for a walk before breakfast or during lunch; walk or swim after work; or lift weights to your favorite music before dinner.

To be effective, then, exercise should be done on a regular basis. Often, however, you may find yourself away from home, or stuck at the office, and so start to feel guilty when you miss your regular bouts of physical activity. However, there is a delicate balance between a firm commitment to exercise and a rigid compulsion about keeping to a predetermined workout schedule. By developing a flexible, healthy attitude about your exercise program -- making it part of your life, not your entire life -- your enthusiasm for being physically active will always remain high. Remember, brisk walking is a safe and effective form of exercise that can be done almost anywhere.

How can you fit physical activity into your busy schedule?

Answer: The average American watches four hours of TV daily. That suggests that finding time to exercise is a matter of establishing priorities. Let’s take a closer look at the time element and see how it actually breaks down for most people. Of the 168 hours in a week, you spend an average of 40 to 50 hours working and 50 or so sleeping. Simple math leave you with 68 "free" hours.

Make a commitment and set aside at least three of those free hours for physical activity during the week. Make becoming more physically active your number one priority and let those three hours be a gift to yourself each and every week. Personal workouts can be difficult to schedule, but they’re imperative. Scheduling exercise time into your week helps turn these "appointments" into a habit. Just like making your bed, brushing your teeth, and combing your hair in the morning, exercise can become a regular part of your day. Moreover, for many it becomes one of the more enjoyable times of time day.

Here are some tips for exercise that’s easy on the joints and can be done regularly by those of us who suffer from arthritis provided by Johns Hopkins Health Alerts

Arthritis Exercise Resources

Does Recreational Exercise Influence the Development of Osteoarthritis of the Knee? - Arthritis Information from the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center




Susan Bartlett, MD

Author Susan Bartlett lectures frequently about physical activity, weight issues, and arthritis. As Dr. Bartlett notes, the best thing exercise does is help reduce joint pain and the attendant joint stiffness, enhance flexibility and endurance, and build strong muscles around your joint.

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