It’s estimated that almost 50% of the population will experience some level of osteoarthritis in their lifetime. This painful degenerative joint condition leaves sufferers with sharp pains, stiffness, and the possibility for muscle spasms.
Fortunately, many of these symptoms can be reduced or eliminated with meaningful lifestyle changes, including physical activity that promotes joint health. If you’re currently suffering from osteoarthritis or are worried that you might in the future, try these simple and safe exercises to keep you flexible and pain free.
- Leg Stretches
Your knees are often the joints most susceptible to osteoarthritis pain, so it’s important to keep the muscles of your legs strong enough to offer them adequate support. Calf and hamstring stretches are essential for promoting this strength and are a great way to start a workout. These can be done seated by stretching one leg out in front of you and gently bringing your arms and torso towards it, or they can be done standing up by allowing the weight of your upper body to pull you forward.
- Water Aerobics
Unfortunately, people with osteoarthritis are often unable to do many exercises because of the excess pressure they place on their joints. Working out in the water, however, reduces joint pressure while still allowing you to build muscle strength.
Step-ups are great because they mimic the everyday movement of your knees. The most important safety consideration to remember with this exercise is to go at a pace that is comfortable for you. While step-ups can help strengthen the muscles around your knee, doing them too quickly or with poor form can actually make your condition worse.
Incorporating lunges into your workout routine is great because they work multiple muscle groups—your legs and your core. However, as with step-ups, lunges can cause more harm than good if you’re not paying attention to your form. Step forward with one leg and slowly begin to shift your weight and bend at the knee. If you experience discomfort at any time, reduce the depth of your lunges.
Squats are another exercise that require you to properly assess the limits of your body, but when done correctly, they can work wonders for the muscles around your knees. Always start slowly and squat to about a 90 degree angle, as if you’re sitting in an invisible chair. If this is comfortable, then gradually increase the depth of your squat. With consistent practice, you may find that your range of motion begins to improve with time.