DEAR DOCTOR K: I have arthritis, which makes it difficult for me to get up and around. But I’d still like to exercise regularly. Any suggestions?
DEAR READER: The more you move, the more your ability to exercise will grow.
I spoke to Kailin Collins, a physical therapist at Harvard University-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. She recommends the following for people with mobility-limiting conditions:
• Swimming is a great option for people with arthritis and limited mobility. That’s because the buoyancy of water takes the load off your joints. Swimming in warm water particularly soothes sore joints.
• Bicycling improves your aerobic fitness. Try a recumbent seat, which puts your body in a reclining position, making biking easier. Or try a restorator, or mini-cycle, bike. It sits on a U-shaped base, so you can pedal away without leaving your chair. Then set it on a table to work your arms.
• Seated strengthening exercises. You can do a wide range of muscle-strengthening exercises while seated. Try arm raises, biceps curls or overhead presses with light weights. Put a medicine ball between your knees and squeeze it to work your inner thighs. Lift and lower one straight leg at a time. (I’ve put descriptions and illustrations of two seated strengthening exercises on my website, AskDoctorK.com.)
Stretching is important for improving flexibility and preventing injury. Stretch a few times a day and after every workout. Or try yoga, which both stretches and tones. Many community and senior centers offer chair yoga classes.
Finally, don’t forget balance exercises. Maintaining your balance is especially important for preventing falls when mobility is an issue.
I realize you may be dubious about my basic message: Because you hurt too much to exercise, you should exercise regularly to hurt less. But it’s true – if you do the right exercises.