Wednesday, August 5, 2009

July 8, 2009: Exercise for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis affects 27 million American adults. It commonly affects knees, hips, and hands. Activity guidelines for osteoarthritis have been designed by the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) to decrease pain, prevent deformity, and improve range of motion, strength, and cardiovascular fitness.

Three to seven days a week, those with osteoarthritis should get 20 to 30 minutes of low impact aerobic exercise at 50-70% of maximum heart rate. Aerobic exercise produces endorphins, which are the body's natural pain-relieving hormone. Ask your doctor or physical therapist for suitable exercises for your body and conditioning.

Those with osteoarthritis also need to do muscle strengthening activities. The AGS recommends two to three days per week doing eight to ten isotonic exercises with six to fifteen reps per exercise, building to more reps over time. Isotonic exercises are those moving with a steady weight, for example bicep curls with small weights or shoulder pull-downs on a workout machine. Again, ask your doctor or physical therapist to recommend a routine for your fitness level.

Why do you need strength training in addition to aerobics? The best support, both for comfort and movement, for a troubled joint is to strengthen the muscle that surrounds it. I have a torn miniscus in my right knee, and with regular workouts and yoga, it no longer restricts or bothers me.

The third exercise component recommended by the AGS is flexibility and balance. Three to five days a week, spend several minutes stretching your arms, legs, shoulders, neck, and back muscles.

A good balance exercise is to stand with your hands a couple of inches above the kitchen counter. Shift your weigh slightly, and lift one foot a few inches. After a few seconds, switch feet. If you wobble, drop your hands to the counter to steady yourself, then lift them again when you find your balance.

Every Saturday I teach a free yoga class at 8:30 am at the Tallassee Community Library. Tallassee residents ages 6 to 75 work on strengthening, stretching, and balance. Come join us in our pursuit of a healthy life!

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