Gentle Fitness Solutions
Don't let aches hold you back from getting (or staying) active! Here's how to choose soothing moves that can actually ease the pain.
Achy joints? You're not alone. As we get older, we tend to have less elastin, a protein that keeps skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissue flexible. But here's good news: You can feel better at any age by staying active with joint-friendly exercises that ease pain rather than adding to it. Moving your body helps because it increases blood flow and lubricates the joints. Staying active also helps control your weight, which means less impact on the joints.
Go low. Walking and swimming are two great low-impact cardio exercises that allow you to burn fat without jarring the joints. Swimming is especially helpful when joint pain is severe; water soothes aching joints while eliminating impact. Not a swimmer? Try water aerobics for the same benefit.
Keep it steady. Avoid exercises that require you to turn, pivot, or make a lot of stops and starts, such as tennis. Instead, try the elliptical machine at a fitness center—it moves your body through a safe range of motion with minimal impact. Stationary bikes also go easy on the joints (opt for a recumbent bicycle if you have a sore back), while treadmills provide a more forgiving surface than city streets. In snowy months, try cross-country skiing and snowshoeing—you'll burn as many calories as you would from jogging.
Tone tired muscles. Strengthening the muscles around your knees, hips, and back reduces pain by improving your posture, alignment, and overall joint mobility. In fact, a 16-week strength-training program has been shown to cut arthritis pain by 43 percent. If your pain is severe, ask your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist who can teach you gentle strengthening moves.
Stay on schedule. However you choose to get moving, cut back on the intensity of your workouts (if you need to) but not the frequency. Regular exercise conditions your muscle groups while preventing stiffness.
Get a little herbal help. A supplement combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate brought relief to about 350 arthritis patients who suffered moderate to severe knee pain, according to a landmark study of nearly 1,600 people published in the New England Journal of Medicine. And SAM-e relieved knee pain as effectively as an arthritis drug in a 16-week study of 56 adults at the University of California, Irvine. One of these supplements just might be the workout buddy you need to make getting moving easier.
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