We all know exercise is good for us. But what are you supposed to do when you have joint problems that hinder your ability to move properly? From mild knee and hip pain, to chronic arthritis, to conditions such as Fibromyalgia, joint problems are all too common. Pain and/or limited range of motion in your joints will significantly impact your life in more ways than one. It can be difficult sometimes to get through each day even without working out, so how can person with joint problems manage to exercise? I have great news for you. First of all, exercise can actually help some joint problems. And second, there are so many ways to work out nowadays that it isn’t that hard to find something you can do.
But first things first. Depending on how severe your joint problems are, there may be some days you can’t exercise at all without putting yourself at risk of further pain and/or injury. It is very important that you consult with and follow your doctor’s instructions first and foremost. If and only if he says it would be a good idea to exercise, here are some tips for how to make it less painful and more helpful for your condition.
- Low impact. If you have joint problems, be careful not to do too many high impact exercises such as jump squats, running, and plyometrics, especially if you are new to exercise. Better options that are easier on the joints but still very effective are pilates, yoga, or even something as simple as going for short walks every day. Be creative and keep it varied. If you do too much of the same thing, or push yourself too hard, you will end up wearing your joints out more. But if you add some sort of low impact exercise to your daily routine, you may find that over time you have less pain and stronger muscles, bones, and ligaments.
- Warm up. For any athlete, it is crucial that you warm up before your workout. This prepares your muscles and joints gradually so that they aren’t shocked when you start the harder exercises. Going for a walk, doing some dynamic stretches are a great way to get the blood pumping and warm up your body. You will especially notice the difference warming up gradually makes this winter when the weather is frigid. Cold muscles just don’t like to move, period.
- Stabilizers. Most people are familiar with the bigger, more dominant muscles such as the biceps, thighs, and abdominals, but did you know you have lots of smaller, stabilizing muscles around each joint? Can you guess their function? It’s kind of a no-brainer 😉 They stabilize your joints, which is especially important when your joints are not functioning optimally and are already at a greater risk of injury. Some great exercises to strengthen and support your stabilizers include the plank, wall sit, and dead hang (hanging from a bar or gymnastics rings without your feet on the ground).
- Know your limits. Like I said before, it’s very important that you know your limits. If you feel an odd catch in your joints, or they start to hurt too much, don’t be afraid to stop for the day or take an extra day of rest. The important thing is that you know your body and listen to it (and your doctor of course).
- That being said, don’t be afraid to push your limits. If your doctor gives you the OK, and if you feel up to it, there is no reason you can’t make some pretty awesome gains in your fitness, even with joint problems. There are some pretty inspiring stories of folks with all sorts of health issues who have overcome the odds to reach an insane level of fitness. Don’t be afraid, and don’t let whatever your joint troubles are stop you from reaching your goals, as long those goals are within reason.
The bottom line is, listen to your body, and find what moves you.