Health and fitness go hand in hand. If you want to live a long, active life, regular exercise needs to be a part of your routine.
But what if conditions like joint discomfort and stiffness are holding you back?
For people who want some relief from arthritis, exercise can be a game-changer. According to MayoClinic.org, working out actually reduces joint pain and helps improve stability, muscle strength, and overall fitness.
The key is to know what exercises are easy on the joints. Luckily, you don’t have to run laps or bench press to experience the countless benefits that exercise has to offer. Even gentle movement can ease your arthritic symptoms and help you maintain a fit, healthy body.
The following eight exercises are a fantastic way to stay fit and keep your mind sharp, without aggravating your body. You’ll also have tons of fun — a crucial element in making a habit stick. Ready to outsmart aging joints? Keep reading.
Take the Plunge
It’s fun, it’s low impact, and it feels good. Those are just three of the reasons why you should take the plunge and try swimming. Whether you’re an ace swimmer or only have doggy-paddle skills, taking a dip in the water is a super way to support your cardiovascular fitness. In your town, check to see if there’s an aquatic club or YMCA with an indoor or outdoor pool. These facilities may also offer swimming lessons for those not-so-confident swimmers, as well as water aerobics classes. Plus, thanks to minimal stress on muscles and joints, swimming is a gentle, yet effective way for those with arthritis or osteoporosis to stay fit.
Say Yes to Yoga
Yoga isn’t all handstands and contortions. There are plenty of yoga classes geared toward building muscle strength and core stability through gentle poses and fluid motion. Yoga is low-impact, yet challenging to your muscles and your mind. Some poses require you to support your own body weight, which is a great way to condition the body.
If you’re a beginner, look for a basic, level one introductory class that will help you learn at a slower pace. There are also therapeutic yoga classes that involve holding stretches for a longer period of time. Before getting started, make sure to talk to your class instructor about any physical restrictions you have.
Pilates = Core Power
Your body’s “core” is your midsection and all your muscles in that area including the front, back, and sides: the traverse abdominis (TVA), erector spinae, obliques, and your lower lats. These muscles are responsible for stabilizing the entire body. When people ask ‘what is the best way to improve core strength’, the answer that typically comes up is Pilates. Like yoga, Pilates is an incredible balance and stability workout, offering strength conditioning in a low-impact format. At your gym or in the community, look for classes designed for first-time Pilates students. All you need is a mat and a good attitude!
Flex Your Muscles
As we age, muscle and bone loss becomes a major threat. One way to keep your body strong is to start challenging those muscles with a bit of strength training. Luckily, you don’t have to lift heavy to see the benefits. Stay on the safe side and start light. Buy a set of one or two-pound weights and work your way up. Or, use your own body as resistance. There are many bodyweight exercises that you can do at home or at the park. Try pushups, squats, lunges, a glute bridge, and stair climbing.
Join the Band
They look sweet and innocent, but resistance bands can really build body strength. Resistance bands are inexpensive, beginner-friendly, and take up practically no space, making them perfect for at-home workouts. If you don’t have access to a gym or any other strength-building equipment, resistance bands are an incredible substitute.
Walk it Out
What’s not to love about walking? It’s free and it gives you an excuse to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. Because it’s fun and relatively easy, walking is one fitness habit that’s easy to start and stick with. Most people should aim for 10,000 steps per day. If you have pain or a chronic condition, you may need to adjust that goal. Just try your best and aim for more steps with each new day. Before you know it, you’ll have a fitness habit that you look forward to.
Ride Like the Wind
If you can’t run or engage in sports due to arthritis, osteoporosis, or joint issues, cycling is another low-impact workout you can do to build muscle strength, especially in your legs. As a bonus, cycling also supports cardiovascular health, metabolic health, and cognitive function. 2Find a spin class or a gym with indoor stationary bikes, so you can ride rain or shine. If you’re nervous about hopping on a bike, ask a friend to ride with you.
Don’t Go It Alone
Group classes are a great way to meet people who are on the same fitness path as you. However, beginners may need a bit more individualized help. If you’d like more attention than a group fitness class can provide, make an appointment with a certified personal trainer. A personal training session enables you to learn at your own pace and ask questions as you go. During your session, your personal trainer will help you perform moves correctly and use workout equipment safely. Try to find a personal trainer who specializes in working with seniors and be sure and tell him/her about any areas where you have pain.
Improve Your Quality of Life Right Now
Good news: if you’re in your 60s and don’t have the limber joints you once had, you can still get physical. But before you hit the gym or yoga studio, you’ll want to ‘listen’ to your body. Start slow and trust your gut. Gradually increase your weight load or exercise intensity as you progress.
Also, notice how your body feels after your workouts. If you’ve been inactive for a while, you may notice some discomfort. Your doctor can tell you what constitutes “normal” pain as opposed to a sign of something more serious.
Your aging joints don’t have to keep you on the sidelines. If you’ve got the okay from your physician, start with one or more low-impact workouts, like walking, swimming, or weight lifting. By engaging in moderate exercise on a regular basis, you’ll soon discover just how powerful you already are.