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  • Writer's pictureElla Swetlishoff

Beyond the Aches

Living with arthritis can be quite the rollercoaster ride, and we’ve experienced our fair share of ups and downs since my diagnosis. At first, the idea of regular physical activity during an arthritic flare-up seemed daunting. But as we delve into the research and personal stories, we discover that exercise holds the key to not just managing arthritis but also embracing life.


While it may seem like the last thing you want to do during an arthritic flare-up, regular physical activity is vital in those without chronic disease, but probably even more important to those with it. Regular exercise is known to strengthen the muscles around affected joints, as well as preserve muscle mass, and studies even suggest that joint swelling and pain can be controlled through exercise. This works by increasing the lubrication of the cartilage in the affected joint, resulting in a reduction of stiffness and pain. Aside from all these physical benefits, there are countless psychological benefits to regular physical activity, both short and long-term that are heightened by physical activity, especially when suffering from chronic pain. Some of these benefits include better sleep, improved mood, reduced fatigue, and decreased anxiety, which are all especially important when you have an illness like arthritis.


When diagnosed with a chronic disease, it is so important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally, as you may be experiencing lots of ups and downs while navigating a new diagnosis. Exercise is amazing because it is a natural mood regulator, lending stability in an unpredictable time.


Now that you’ve heard all the benefits of consistent exercise with arthritis, you may be wondering how best to add regular physical activity to your routine especially when dealing with arthritis. Some of the most optimal activities for arthritis are swimming, cycling, weight training, or simply walking outdoors. Swimming is especially important as your joints are less stiff in the water, and if you are dealing with severe arthritis it will allow you to move your body freely. Swimming is also a great tool for distressing as it regulates your breath. Doing a combination of these activities throughout the week will have an immensely positive effect on both your physical and emotional health! Additionally, rather than pushing your body, you should start by just consistently doing an hour of exercise daily and choosing your activity based on how you are feeling. For example, if your arthritis is acting up, try a relaxing walk outdoors as opposed to a run.


I hope you feel inspired and informed about the benefits of physical activity with arthritis. Remember, you're not alone on this journey. Embrace the power of movement, and let's conquer arthritis together!


References


“Role of Exercise in Arthritis Management.” Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, 18 Jan. 2018, www.hopkinsarthritis.org/patient-corner/disease-management/role-of-exercise-in-arthritis-management/.


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