Arthritis and Senior Fitness

May 30 is Senior Health and Fitness Day, and May is National Arthritis Awareness Month. Sounds like a great time to talk about the ways physical activity can help reduce joint stiffness and pain!

Did you know osteoarthritis afflicts more than one-third of American adults over age 65?

This arthritis comes on slowly with age and is more common in women. If your loved one has complained of joint stiffness or achiness, make a doctor’s appointment for a diagnosis. Although osteoarthritis has no cure, the pain can be managed.

Motion is lotion! Surprisingly, the key to living well with osteoarthritis is to keep moving. Research shows that regular physical, whole-body activity reduces arthritis pain over time.

  • Take a warm shower each morning. This reduces stiffness and makes it easier to get moving.
  • Do some stretching before you exercise. Get the body more limber, especially those joints with arthritis.
  • “Start low, and go slow.” Find an activity that is low impact (easy on the joints). Examples include walking, water aerobics, swimming, and bicycling. No twisting or hard pounding. Even 5-10 minutes at a time, twice a day makes a difference. Increase time slowly.
  • Modify activities if pain occurs. Becoming more active may cause some muscle and/or joint soreness at the start. Encourage your relative to persevere. It takes about 4-6 weeks for the overall pain-relief benefits to kick in. To address discomfort, consider changing the type of exercise or adjusting how frequently or how long your loved one spends exercising. (But keep him or her moving!)

Stop exercising and consult the doctor if your relative notices

  • ongoing pain even two hours after exercise;
  • sharp pain;
  • significant increase in the swelling of the joints;
  • redness or “heat” in the joints;
  • pain that gets worse at night;
  • pain that leads to limping;
  • no relief with hot/cold packs, rest, or medication.

Other treatments the doctor may recommend include weight loss, physical therapy, or specific medications to ease the inflammation of the joints.