Exercise to Help with Senior Arthritis Pain

Arthritis can be a very debilitating affliction.  Without proper care and treatment and a strong willpower; Arthritis will steal a person’s independence, freedom and mobility.  The pain can be so excruciating some find it hard …

Arthritis can be a very debilitating affliction.  Without proper care and treatment and a strong willpower; Arthritis will steal a person’s independence, freedom and mobility.  The pain can be so excruciating some find it hard to motivate themselves to exercise when a flare-up occurs.  Do not let this deter you from exercising.  Exercise is still the best way to alleviate the flare-up.  Below are eight gentle exercises seniors with arthritis can do on a daily basis to help manage arthritis pain.  Please do not forget to take a strong pain medication if you need to dull the pain enough to perform these low impact exercises.  Low impact daily exercises such as walking and swimming can help decrease the pain and strengthen muscles and joint tissue and increase mobility. According to the Arthritis Foundation, if you lose just one pound of weight, it can decrease the amount of pressure around your joints by four pounds! Now let’s dive into each type of exercise. 

8 low-impact exercises for seniors with Arthritis

1. Yoga or tai chi

To do any exercises, mental preparedness is a must.  So to get in the right mental state doing tai chi or Yoga is a low impact fluid movement exercise to start with.  These techniques will carefully stretch and strengthen your muscles.  Tai Chi will help with your breathing and help you keep mentally focused.  Both exercises benefit you by improving your flexibility and balance. They help reduce swelling that can impede flexibility due to arthritis. It is also good to find a local class throughout your community that can instruct you in the basics of Yoga or Tai chi. For seniors who do have trouble leaving the home, there are also some DVDs available for seniors to do while at home. 

2. Swimming

Depending how advanced your arthritis is, will determine how challenging swimming will be to seniors who try this exercise.  However, if you can endure the pain, swimming will ease your pain. Plus, water makes you weightless, so your joints will have less pain. Trying water aerobic classes, these can provide companionship and extra safety while you exercise. If you do not enjoy swimming or do not know how to swim, there are many other exercises to do that can give you the same benefit. 

3. Fist Close

The fist close exercise needs to be started at the first signs of arthritis.  This will help maintain finger flexibility for seniors in their hands.  Simply make a fist, slowly at first, embracing the pain, hold the fist for at least five seconds or as long as possible.  Release the fist, and repeat this exercise 10 times.

4. Making an “O”

Next we are going to make an “O”.  This last exercise may be challenging for certain seniors with serious arthritis. However, you should always try and work through the pain. Remember all these exercises are very beneficial to you.  So let’s start by attempting to make an “O” shape with your hand.  Hold your fingers together, then bending the thumb and trying to touch your index finger to your thumb.  The more you do this exercise, the better you will get over with time.  Touching all your fingers to your thumb will also help with your dexterity.  I know the pain can be excruciating, embrace it and keep working those fingers and thumbs.  Remember, the pain is temporary, it will lessen the more you do this exercise.

5. Wrist bends

Wrist bends not only can help with arthritis, it can also help with carpal tunnel syndrome so whether your wrists are locked or stuck this exercise can improve your mobility.  Start by placing your elbow on the table, making sure your hand is pointed at the ceiling.  Start slowly pushing back your open palm with the other hand.  Remember to push slightly, you should not feel pain; just try and bend it as far as you can without feeling pain.  Seniors should hold this position for five seconds, then release. Then push the same hand forward and hold for five seconds.  Release and rest your hand. Now do the other hand in the same way and repeat 10 times. 

6. Ankle circles

If you have arthritis problems with your ankles, here is another exercise that can help- ankle circles. This exercise is for those who can still move their ankles in a circular motion. For better support and balance, seniors can hold onto a chair.  While standing, raise one foot off the floor.  With your toe, point to the floor and draw a circle by moving your ankle. Once you have drawn five circles, change direction.  Then do the same steps with the other ankle as well.

7. Sitting stretch

Seniors can do this one while sitting on your duff, while watching television, or doing the twelve ounce curl with your favorite beverage. This exercise is all about moving your hips and stretching the muscles in your legs. Whether in your bed, in a chair, or if you can still sit on the floor without using a button to call for help. First thing to do, while sitting, slowly bend forward at the hips, and trying to touch your feet with your hands.  Reach as far as you can, without pushing yourself to hard.  The more you do this exercise, the more flexible you will become.

8. Step-ups

No equipment needed for this exercise, just use the closest staircase you can use safely.  While holding the banister to help with your balance, step one leg onto the bottom step. Now the other, gently bending your knee. Then move backward off the step and repeat. Try doing it up to 10 times or as many as you can. 

Other Great Activities for Seniors with Arthritis

1. Gardening

Who does not like playing in the dirt?  I know getting down on your hands and knees might terrify some seniors with arthritis.  Getting outdoors in the cool breeze of the morning or evening and digging in the dirt while making plants grow may be just what the doctor ordered. Besides, once you start doing an activity, you tend to forget about all the aches and pains that come with arthritis.  Being surrounded by nature has other health benefits as well like reducing stress.

2. Painting

Painting is a wonderful way to get your fingers, hands, arms and shoulders moving.  Especially once you have established a tai-chi, Yoga routine or started the exercise program. Painting is also a very good activity to keep yourself flexible, plus it is fun to do.  If you’re artistic and get good at it, you could also generate a nice side business to help with your income. 

3. Cooking

All people need food, so cooking is a no brainer when it comes to a fun therapeutic activity for seniors with mobility issues like arthritis.  Working the dough for cookies or biscuits will help keep those hands flexible.  Plus, you can control what you eat and really make some very healthy meals while keeping your mind sharp and coming up with new recipes.  In fact, there are all kinds of cooking tools for people with arthritis to use.

4. Crafting

Crafting is another wonderful activity seniors with arthritis can do to increase flexibility.  Whether doing needlework, working clay, beading, knitting or woodworking.  These activities can take your mind off the pain and make you feel good and reduce stress. Anything that keeps those hands and digits moving will slow down the arthritic disease.  Besides, all that handy work will increase the strength of your hands.

5. Dancing

If painting is good for your upper body, then dancing is great for your lower body movement, balance and flexibility. Dancing is good cardio, and it is also fun.  However, seniors should consult a physician before starting a dancing routing or class is a good idea. Although, if you have already started a program, such as swimming, then dancing should not be an issue. Remember, stay away from rigorous movements; maybe a waltz or a Texas two-step could be just what you need. 

Before starting any of these exercises and techniques, you need to consult with a physician, to find which of these eight programs are right for you.  While enjoying the fruits of these low impact lifestyle changes, continue consulting with your primary care physician, so as you improve he can make changes if they are needed.  If for some reason your condition worsens or you have a severe case of arthritis, there are other options and solutions that could be beneficial to you.  Physical therapy could be right for one individual, but not for another.  Each person’s situation will be different, and all solutions will be painful at the start.  No one should let pain stop them from improving their health. Instead work through the pain and you will find that as you make progress your pain will lessen, your flexibility, and mobility will improve as you take back control of your life.  Remember, when following any program your physician has prescribed, it is best to change up the order of your routine or change your workout routine every few days. This will keep your body guessing and allow you to fully benefit from the workout.  If your muscles see a pattern they get lazy and no amount of exercise will show improvement, however you will still gain the health benefits of physical activity.

The best way to Exercise with Arthritis

Exercising with arthritis requires individuals to work with their physician to help manage their pain so they can start the workout routine.  The patient has to be honest with their doctor, so they will be able to start and finish the program, while also improving their health. This is a slow process and the individual has to be patient and follow all their doctor’s instructions. Part of the process is eating a healthy well balanced meal, along with getting the right amount of rest. Without doing these two essential steps, any kind of exercise program will not work properly. Once the routine is finished for the day, next is the recovery process. Think of this as the after party of the workout routine.  This final step is very important. It can give your body time to cool down and get back to normal after an everyday routine.  Remember seniors should not over do their workouts. Overdoing a workout could be very bad for your overall health. 

More resources for seniors with Arthritis

There are a quite of website resources that seniors can go to for help with their arthritis pain. Below are just a handful of opportunities to reach out to for the specific help that you may be suffering from. 

The Arthritis Foundation: This site provides everything seniors, and also young adults that want to know about Arthritis and how it can affect their lives. 

Health.com: This site offer more information on arthritis and other ways to help manage your symptoms. 

The Mayo Clinic: This site also provides many resources for seniors that need help managing their arthritis symptoms. The link offers the Dos and Don’ts of arthritis. 

In conclusion

While living with arthritis can be painful, there are many ways to reduce the pain.  Some doctors may just prescribe pain meds while others may suggest other alternatives along with pain medication.  It is up to you to insist to your physician to try other ways to help you alleviate your pain.  Do not be afraid to switch doctors if the one you are seeing does not satisfy you.  The right doctor will help you take back your life and you will have more freedom.  Remember, a great physician will not only help heal a person, but could also help them recover from their ailment.  Sometimes, this is done through medication, other times through therapy, or even both. When seniors do sit down with their doctor, communicate to them exactly how you are feeling and be specific.  Ask lots of questions, if one does not have the answers you seek, then talk to another until you get the answers you are looking for.