Workout program gym
Even with your arthritis, it’s entirely possible to make the leap from couch potato to avid exerciser – and well worth the effort.
A 2008 study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that sedentary individuals with arthritis (both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis) who exercised twice a week for an hour experienced significant declines in pain and fatigue and improved their ability to manage their arthritis. In addition, a 2006 study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal concluded that exercise markedly lowered the risk of a number of health problems, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, depression and osteoporosis.
Don’t let inexperience, inertia, weight, or arthritis hold you back. “Contrary to popular belief, there is never an age, skill level or stage of arthritis so bad that you can't do something constructive for your mobility, ” says Vonda Wright, MD, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Sports Medicine and author of Fitness After 40 (AMACOM, 2009).
Doreen M. Stiskal, PhD, chair of the department of physical therapy at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, agrees. “Most people with arthritis don’t exercise because they’re in pain – not realizing that exercise is a powerful and effective pain reliever. It eases inflammation, improves energy and promotes the flow of feel-good, pain-relieving chemicals like endorphins.”
And if extra weight is a concern, take heart: For obese people, being physically active is key to not only helping you lose extra pounds, it will also reduce pain and boost your overall health.
So what are you waiting for? Here’s your comprehensive guide on how to start – and stick with – an exercise program:
Before you lace up your sneakers, follow these steps to make sure you safely jump-start your new routine.
Check in with your doctor. Let your rheumatologist and general practitioner know that you’re going to start exercising. She may advise against specific activities because of your medical history, says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise in San Diego.
“Ask your doctor for specific suggestions, including how long and hard you should exercise, ” says Bryant. Your doctor may be able to refer you to exercise programs in your area. “If she’s unable to do so, seek the help of a physical therapist or certified professional trainer who has extensive experience working with people with arthritis.”
Set Modest Goals to Start. Even once you know you’re ready to make a change, there’s still one unanswered question: How do I get started? The best advice: Start small. “It’s great to have big dreams, like losing 100 pounds, but it’s more important to set small, attainable goals at first. Otherwise, you may get discouraged, ” says Rick Van Haveren, PhD, a sports psychologist in Atlanta.
Thirty minutes of exercise still counts if you break it into three 10-minute increments throughout a day. If you’re not quite bold enough to stroll into a gym and start working out, consider taking that first step at home. Try an exercise DVD, such as the Arthritis Foundation’s "Take Control with Exercise, " to help boost your confidence in getting active.
And don’t be afraid to aim for shorter-term successes, like always using the stairs instead of using the elevator at the office or walking for 30 minutes straight without stopping. These are all equally important achievements and each deserves recognition.
Find your courage. Embarking on a fitness program can be a challenge for anyone, but especially for people who know making that first move will likely be somewhat daunting. Don’t let fear prevent you from taking action to reduce pain and improve function. You may have to dig deep for the courage to get started, but you know you’ll feel better once you do. Think back to other challenges you’ve faced and how you rose to them. Are there any people you admire who have faced a similar challenge? How can you learn from them and challenge yourself as they did?
Know What to Wear. Perhaps the most important thing you’ll need is a supportive but comfortable pair of shoes – and good fit is paramount. Visit a running or walking store to get properly fitted. A good walking or running shoes will serve your needs for most aerobic and strength-training workouts. It’s OK to walk in a running shoe, but best not to run in walking shoes. When shoe shopping, wear the socks you plan to wear during workouts and try the shoes for at least 10 minutes in the store.
Loose-fitting clothing such as t-shirts, cotton shorts, sweatpants and sweatshirts are fine to start out. But if you think you’ll be sweating or working on gym equipment, form-fitting, perspiration-wicking attire will keep you dry and is less likely to get caught on the equipment’s moving parts. If you’re self-conscious about your weight, wear clothing that you feel comfortable in. Plus-size workout clothing and swimsuits are available at department stores or discount stores such as Wal-Mart and online. Check out the Plus Size Yellow Pages.
If you plan to get your workout rolling on a bike, go to a bicycle shop and get help selecting a bike that fits you and your riding style. A helmet, gel-padded gloves and a comfy seat also will deter injury.
Get Set …
Now that you’re ready to get going, set a plan you can stick with. Here are some strategies that will help bring out your inner exercise enthusiast.
Don’t go it alone. If you find exercise tedious or lonely, you’re less likely to stick with it. “Ask a friend or significant other to join you. Exercise feels less like exercise when it’s a social event, ” says Bryant. You're also more likely to stick with your commitment – to exercise and to your partner. If you have an active dog, take it for a stroll. Look into group walks or arthritis exercise classes – activities that make working out more of a fun social event and less of a chore.
Reward yourself. Research shows that when people are rewarded for "good behavior" – including exercise – they feel better about it and are more likely to repeat it. “Instead of rewarding yourself with food, do something that builds on your new healthy habits. For example, book a massage or a pedicure, [or go] window shopping at the mall with a friend, ” says Stiskal.