Arthritis is common in the joints of the hands. Personal Photo/Jennifer Cunningham
- Start slow with low amounts of exercise. This all depends on your current state. If you have been sedentary for a long time, start with 10 minutes of walking 3-6 days/week for about 2 weeks. Then try adding 20 minutes of walking, swimming, or biking for another 2-4 weeks. Afterwards, try upping to 30 minutes. The 30 minutes can be broken into three different 10 minute sessions in the same day.
- Avoid stair climbing if you have arthritis in the lower body. Avoid contact sports and high impact aerobics like plyometrics.
- Include strength training in your routine. If you have weak wrists, try strengthening the forearms which stabilize the wrists. This doesn't need to take long. 1 set of 10 repetitions to start with is good. If pain or swelling are a persistent problem, reduce the amount of weight being lifted. Machine weights and circuit rooms are usually a good place to start.
- Always include a warm up, cool down, and stretching. Stretching is vital to maintaining range of motion.
- Be aware that you may feel a little tender after exercising, but discomfort is normal. The tender feeling will fade after a couple weeks once the body is stronger.
- Joint protection is important. If you need to wear a brace, do it. If you feel pain in a joint during an exercise, stop that exercise. If a joint is too weak to do the prescribed exercise for the day, do something else.
- Exercise in the morning can sometimes be more difficult due to stiffness.
Understanding the difference between pain and discomfort is very important. Pain is never okay, but discomfort is expected. A major goal for many individuals with arthritis should be to regain some of the functionality in the joints, and to enjoy the benefits of the exercise. This is not a quick process, expect to see minor results in about 4-6 weeks, but major goals may not be reached for about 4-6 months.