When your joints ache, the obvious thing to do is to stop exercising. After all, less pressure on your joints should lead to reduced discomfort, right?
Well not so fast. As it turns out, this is probably the opposite of what you should be doing. As arthritis is so commonplace among the older generation a huge amount of time and money has gone into researching how best to reduce joint pain. In such experiments scientists have shown time and again that exercise can actually help joint pain.
Of course, exercise also has a range of other benefits that have also been highlighted before. These include better sleep, a more positive outlook, reduced chances of cardiovascular problems and increase bone density. Exercise can also impact how your body handles glucose, and so may impact the potential of contracting diabetes.
While even the experts themselves disagree on a huge number of health-related issues, one of the few areas of common group seems to be that regular exercise is an important ingredient in a healthy lifestyle. It can also prove to be a useful therapy for sufferers of joint pain.
That said, some exercises seem rather more effective than others, not least because sore joints will potentially rule out certain more extreme ways of keeping fit. It seems rather unlikely, for example, that you’ll choose to take up rock climbing if you suffer from joint pain. But what can you do instead?
Aquatic exercises have been popular with athletes for years, as the resistance offered by water can increase the work done during exercise. In doing so, muscle strength and condition can improve.
At the same time, however, the viscosity of water can help to support sore joints, making exercise more comfortable.
In one study, women were asked to complete exercises either on land or in water, and the scientists running the experiment found that aquatic exercise offered the same benefits, but reduced post-exercise discomfort considerably.
Elsewhere, individuals suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee were split into two groups; undergoing exercise in the water or on land. They found that both impacted range-of-movement and walking speed equally but that “subjective pain levels were significantly less in the aquatic group”.
So whether you opt for an aqua aerobics class, a gentle swim, or just the opportunity to walk around in water, the evidence seems to suggest that not only is it gentle on your joints but is also likely to be just as beneficial as land-based forms of exercise.
Tai Chi is one of the most relaxed sources of exercise available, involving slow, controlled movements. But surely that lack of intensity means that it is unlikely to have any beneficial impact? Not so, if the science is to be believed.
According to one study, individuals suffering from joint pain who took part in Tai Chi classes for a period of 12 weeks reported improvements in aerobic activity, joint discomfort, fatigue and physical ability in daily life. This evidence suggests that even low impact exercise like Tai Chi offer potential benefits to those unable to partake is more strenuous activity.
Walking is a wonderful exercise as it is entirely self-paced. You can choose the distance, the time and the speed at which you walk. As a result, even individuals with sore joints can take part in regular walks, and enjoy the benefits that this simple exercise offers.
Done outdoors, walking also provides an opportunity to top up your vitamin D levels, which are crucial for healthy bones and for supporting a healthy immune system.
Whilst taking part in break dancing or zumba classes might be a stretch, more sedate dancing practices such as ballroom can have similar benefits to tai chi or walking. Dancing tends to incorporate the whole body, and with regular movement can help to strengthen muscles or exercise joints.
A study in which arthritis sufferers took part in 2 hours of gentle dance twice a week for 16 weeks reported improvements in muscle strength, flexibility and pain, not to mention reduced joint swelling.
Another analysis of dancing found that it offered improved aerobic ability, muscle endurance and agility. It also reported that dancing may be an effective way to reduce falls in older individuals, thanks to the improved balance and muscle strength dancing encourages.
Maybe it’s time to break out those dancing shoes?
Aerobics – either performed in water or on land – represents another opportunity for low-impact exercise. The focus on bending and stretching has been shown time and again to help improve joint flexibility and wellness.
Possibly the most intriguing exercise comes in the form of resistance training. Studies have found that increased muscular strength can help to support joints, thus making them feel more comfortable. Load-bearing exercises also seem to offer the most benefit when it comes to increasing bone mineral density, making bones stronger and therefore less likely to fracture in the case of falls.
In one study, 365 volunteers with arthritic joints took part in a program involving either aerobic activity, resistance training or no exercise at all. Over the “no exercise” group the experts found that resistance training led to an 8% improvement in joint pain, greater walking ability, and improved speed when lifting or carrying objects. Far from making sore joints worse, gradual resistance training seems to be highly beneficial.
If you suffer from sore joints then it’s all too easy to give up on the idea of exercise. Recent research, however, suggests that this may be a mistake. There are a large number of exercises which seem to not only place minimal strain on joints, but over time may actually improve discomfort as well as a range of other health metrics.
As a final note, if you are unfortunate enough to suffer from sore joints on a regular basis you are strongly encouraged to consult your doctor before starting any kind of exercise program – no matter how moderate they may seem. In this manner, your doctor will be able to advise you of any concerns they may have, and to provide personalized guidance on how best to benefit from your routine.
Thanks to Simply Supplements for producing this article. If you’d like to learn more about their range of joint supplements please visit https://www.simplysupplements.co.uk/glucosamine.