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Arthritis and Exercise

When you have arthritis, your joints hurt you wake up, but you force yourself to get out of bed and as you keep on moving, the pain lessens. Is your body trying to tell you something when you feel better after you start to move? Many studies have shown that bed rest worsens the pain of arthritis, and a strength training program can help to control it.

Most people with arthritis think they should rest their muscles and joints, but resting is the worst thing you can do. When you move around, the cartilage in your joints acts like a shock absorber. Resting weakens cartilage and increases its likelihood to break. Resting also weakens muscles so they can't control the joints, allowing more wobble of the joints with each movement and increasing cartilage damage.

People with arthritis should exercise, but they should not jog, run or engage in sports that cause your feet to pound on the ground, such as tennis or rope-jumping. When you hit the ground hard with each step, your foot stops suddenly and the force is transmitted up your leg to your knees and hips. This force can break cartilage. Choose an activity with smooth motions such as cycling, swimming or rowing. You can pedal a bicycle because pedaling is done in a smooth rotary motion that does not jar your joints.

People with arthritis should also lift weights because this strengthens muscles to stabilize joints, and helps to strengthen cartilage to protect it from breaking. Ideally, everyone with arthritis should have access to weight machines and be taught how to lift weights with proper form, in sets of ten, two or three times week. The combination of a smooth, continuous exercise and a supervised weight lifting can help protect you from further joint damage and reduce your pain.

About the author:

Dr. Gabe Mirkin has been a radio talk show host for 25 years and practicing physician for more than 40 years; he is board certified in four specialties. For more information and hundreds of health and fitness reports, visit If you have pain in multiple joints or sudden onset of joint pain, read about reactive arthritis


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