Having arthritis in my knees and ankles/feet and back, along with asthma, it is difficult to do most exercises. Walking is even difficult..certainly cannot power walk. Are there exercises done from a chair or while holding onto a chair?

Before I begin to address what exercises you should do, it is important to understand the different types of arthritis and how they affect the body.

Arthritis can be defined as “inflammation of a joint, usually accompanied by pain, swelling and stiffness. The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Both affect joints in very different ways, and due to this, they must be looked at individually in regards to exercise advice. Osteoarthritis, otherwise known as degenerative joint disease, can be defined as “chronic degenerative changes to joint cartilage.” The joints commonly involved are the weight bearing joints such as the knees, hips and spine as well as the hands and toes. Exercise helps to increase functional independence by increasing pain control, proprioception, strength, stability and endurance. Strong muscles are able to act as shock absorbers for the joints and distribute the pressure to reduce stress being placed on joints. Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand is a systemic arthritis in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints, typically affecting symmetrical joints.

There are certain misconceptions among arthritis sufferers who think exercise will be detrimental to their health. Others may think that pain is a sign you should rest and not aggravate it. While these myths have some degree of truth in them, for the majority of individuals, this is not so black and white. While it is not recommended to exercise when there is an acute bout of arthritis, in those individuals with mild to moderate arthritis, it has been proven that exercise is just one of the key elements to managing it effectively.

When it comes to exercising and arthritis, there has been extensive research conducted. Exercise in general is a great way to control or reduce weight as well as produce feelings of wellbeing. Always remember exercise is just one part of a comprehensive arthritic treatment plan. Other forms of treatment include rest, diet modification and medication.

The Arthritis Foundation suggests following the two-hour pain rule when training. If an individual has more arthritis pain two hours after exercise then they did before, they have probably done too much and should reduce the training.

So, what exercises can I do?
Aquatic exercise is a great form of activity when arthritis is acute because it can relieve arthritic pain, raise body temperature and increase circulation. Plus, it encourages free movement and provides mild resistance.

However, the most important thing for someone suffering from arthritis is to maintain functional strength and balance. So, I have listed a couple of exercises below that help functional and core strength.

Here are a few tips to help you get started safely:

Discuss your specific exercise plans with GP or physical therapist if possible
Apply heat to sore joints prior to exercising
Stretch and warm up with range of motion exercises
Select functional exercises that assimilate real life activities
Start strengthening exercises slowly.
Progress slowly
Include aerobic exercise (low impact is preferable)
Ease off training if joints become sore.
Use cold damp towel if the areas become sore after exercise.
Follow the two-hour pain rule listed above

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