When a flare-up of arthritis pain hits, physical activity might be the last thing on your mind. However, exercise could do you a world of good. Here are some safe exercise options for arthritis sufferers.

Arthritis is a major cause of pain and immobility for millions of people around the world, and the situation is no different for the almost 4 million Australians who are affected by the condition.

Despite there being somewhere around 100 forms of arthritis, the three most significant forms, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout, make up more than 95% of cases in Australia.

By now you may have heard how exercise has far-reaching benefits for people living with arthritis. However, when you can barely walk or clutch a spoon as a result of arthritis pain, exercise might seem like a very bad idea.

Perhaps these benefits might convince you otherwise. Exercise can:

    • Give you the strength and energy you need to make it through the day.

    • Help strengthen the muscles around your joints.

    • Aid you in getting a good night’s sleep.

    • Assist you in maintaining bone strength.

    • Control your weight (less weight means less pressure on joints).

    • Improve your sense of well-being.

But what are the exercise options that a sufferer can safely explore, especially when some research warns against certain types of exercise?

Get moving!
Fitness experts and physical therapists all agree that, when it comes to arthritis, stretching, strength training and low-impact aerobics can yield remarkable results in terms of pain management.

The following four exercises are gentle enough to work really well for arthritis sufferers:

1. Walk
With our dependence on cars and other modes of transport, we don’t do enough walking. Yet walking is really good for everyone (unless it’s too painful). Even just maintaining a moderate pace for about 40 minutes around the block or through the park can do wonders for your heart rate and bone strength. The further you walk, the greater endurance is achieved. But even 10 minutes at a time is good for you.

2. Water aerobics
This form of aquatic fitness can give you a full-body workout and can be done at the public pool at the fraction of the cost of a gym membership. For starters, you can use the shallow end of the pool and walk at a brisk pace from side to side. Gyms also offer this form of exercise and some even have bicycles in the water for training.

3. Chair stands
Chair stands are good for building stronger arm and leg muscles and can be done in the comfort of your home or even at the office. While sitting at a normal height, stand up and then sit down (without flopping down) by just using your legs for support. To target the arm muscles, you should use only your arms to raise and lower yourself into your chair. Aim for 10 to 15 reps.

4. Pilates
This is a great way to stabilise joints and strengthen the muscles that support the joints. It’s not as complicated as yoga but has really good rewards for arthritis sufferers who need to build stronger muscles. Most gyms offer Pilates, but if yours doesn’t, you can always find an instructor online, or in the directory.

Exercise should be enjoyable, even with arthritis, so take your time and pace yourself carefully. Listen to your body and never try to exercise through the pain.

REMEMBER: A physical therapist, a trainer or your GP can always help you identify the best exercise regimen for you.

Image via Thinkstock.

Read more about Arthritis & Joint Health:

>> Arthritis and your diet

>> Calamari oil vs Krill oil: which is right for you?

>> Arthritis myths debunked