Do you think the word “exercise” is a dirty word? Unfortunately, it does have some bad connotations when people think about being active in those terms. I’m challenging you to instead think of exercise time as your time to play! Kids play, why not adults? My goal with these posts is to always provide some encouragement for those who also have physical limitations – everyone can find something to do if you’re determined enough. Not only that, but regardless of age, there are some of us who are challenged to do exercise, and it may have nothing to do with overeating or weight gain. For me, it’s a series of diagnoses in the past five years that have gradually limited my range of motion. The latest diagnosis was that of osteoarthritis that attacked my left leg after a fall at home. Suddenly, just walking was a challenge. My Zumba career was threatened as I took time off from class for some hard-core physical therapy. This post will be for those of us who have osteoarthritis (or any kind of “–itis”). Maybe you’re recovering from an injury and need to take things slow.
People suffering from arthritis, especially rheumatoid and osteo, can benefit from low-impact aerobics, strength training and stretching. All of these can PREVENT stiff joints and improve overall health. However, when in an active flare-up, you need to take it easy.
When my osteoarthritis flares up in my leg, I rest for several days and listen to my body. Sometimes simple stretches and ice packs do the trick. Here are some exercises that may help. (A word of caution: Consult with your doctor before starting these or any exercises. Your doctor can help you determine what the right moves are to meet your needs):
- Chair stand – builds leg muscles
Sit in a normal-height chair, stand up, and sit down in a slow, controlled fashion. Use the arms to assist if needed. For an added challenge, cross your arms across your chest, tucking your hands underneath your arms. Keep the head above the heart (don’t “tuck and sit,” as there is too much of a risk for you to become a human tumbleweed, rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ and nobody wants that!). Repeat: 10-15x; if it’s too difficult, find a higher-height chair.
- Recumbent bicycling – good for ankle or knee stiffness. This keeps the joints lubricated and blood flowing, without putting pressure on the joints.
Start out for 5-10 minutes and build up to 30-40 minutes, 2-3x a week.
- Hand stretches – people with pain in their finders and hands, especially for typists.
Spread fingers as WIDE as they can go, then make a tight fist and repeat. Repeat: 10-15x for each hand, several times a day
- Elliptical – builds strength in legs/arms
Start out 5-10 minutes and increase 5 minutes at a time as your cardiovascular endurance builds.
- Zumba/Zumba Gold/Yoga/Pilates
All of these types of exercises can be done as at the beginner, advanced or intermediate level. The important thing is to always let your instructor know your physical limitations. They should always be able to provide you with modifications to any exercise, plus they will watch you to ensure your have correct form and technique. In any class you should feel at ease to modifing any move according to your body’s signals. Listen to your body! If your instructor pushes you beyond your comfortable limits, or shames you for not doing more, find another instructor and class!