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Exercise Is Key for People With Arthritis: Expert

FRIDAY, April 1 (HealthDay News) -- Exercise is a good way for people with arthritis to control pain and improve physical function, says an expert.

"People who have arthritis are often scared to exercise because they think they will hurt themselves, but the condition will only get worse if people don't get moving," Valerie Walkowiak, medical integration coordinator at the Loyola Center for Fitness in Maywood, Ill., said in a news release.

"The best way to start is to talk to your doctor about exercising and then work with a therapist or personal trainer to establish guidelines. Be proactive, and take it one step at a time," she advised.

Exercise offers a number of benefits for people with arthritis, including: increasing muscle strength and endurance to improve joint stability; preserving and restoring joint motion and flexibility; and boosting aerobic conditioning to improve mental health and decrease the risk of other diseases.

About 50 million adults in the United States have arthritis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form. It occurs when cartilage deteriorates, leaving nearby joints with no cushion between bones. Many people also suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, which occurs when inflammation in the joint causes it to lose shape and alignment.

The best type of exercise program can depend which form of arthritis a person has, but some workouts benefit all patients.

All arthritis sufferers can benefit from stretching to increase range of motion around an affected joint, Walkowiak said. "The type of stretching one should do depends on which joint is affected."

Arthritis sufferers may also want to try light weights a few times a week to build muscle strength and low-impact aerobic exercise such as walking.

"Start slow, with 10 to 15 minutes of aerobic exercise every other day, to see how it impacts your body," Walkowiak said. "As your body adapts to the new routine, gradually increase duration to 30 to 45 minutes."

Other good exercises can include water aerobics, stationary cycling, gardening, swimming, yoga and Tai-Chi.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about exercise and arthritis.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Loyola University Health System, news release, March 28, 2011

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