Arthritis and Exercise for Seniors
According to the Arthritis Foundation, exercise may be the best way to improve overall activity fitness and manage arthritic pain. Seniors with arthritis have a lot to gain from trying a few gentle exercises each day.
All seniors should talk to their primary care physician before they begin a new exercise regime. Your doctor may want to test your cardiovascular health before you begin. They may also have valuable advice about exercises that are best for aging elders specific to individual health conditions.
When you begin exercising, you should spend several minutes warming up whichever part of your body you are going to work – and be sure to exercise your left and right sides equally. If at any time during exercise you feel pain, you should stop.
Arthritis can develop in many parts of the body. Any joint (fingers, knees, ankles, etc.) is susceptible. The following are some gentle exercises for seniors in order to help reduce joint pain or swelling.
Arthritis in the Hands or Wrists:
- Fist Close: Maintaining finger flexibility is key for those with arthritis in the hands. Simply make a fist, slowly if it is challenging. Hold each hand in a fist for five seconds, or as long as you can. Release and repeat.
- Wrist Bends: Some with arthritis find that their wrists get stuck or can’t bend as far as they need them too. Place your elbow on a tabletop, with your hand pointing to the ceiling. Slowly push back your open palm with your other hand. Don’t push so hard you feel pain, but do try to go as far as you can. Hold for five seconds and release. Now push your other hand forward, hold for five seconds and release.
- Make an “O”: Attempt to make an “O” shape with your hand. Hold your fingers together, bend your thumb, and gently try to touch your thumb to your index finger. You will get better at this exercise with time.
Hips or Knees:
- Sitting Stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Slowly bend forward at the hips and reach for your feet. Most likely, you will not be able to reach very far at first, so don’t push yourself. Over time you will become more flexible.
- Step-Ups: Gently bending your knee will help relieve pain. You don’t need special equipment to do this. Instead, find the nearest staircase. Hold on to the banister for balance, if necessary, and step one leg onto the bottom step, then the other. Move backward off the step and repeat.
Ankles or Feet:
- Ankle Circles: Stand up and raise one foot off the floor. Point your toe and draw a circle. This moves your ankle through its full range of motion. Draw five circles and then change direction. Be sure to do the other ankle, also.
Multiple Areas of Body:
- Swimming: Water takes the weight off all of your joints so you can move them further with less pain. One way to relieve pain and move all of those suffering joints is by swimming. If you can no longer swim, or don’t enjoy it, you can join water aerobic classes where you spend most of the time standing on the bottom of the pool.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164