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Real Life Nutrition Questions Answered

Real Life Fitness Questions Answered

Emma Brown
Nutritionist

Janet Aylott
Nutritionist

Kelly Marshall
Fitness Consultant

Q.

I have Osteoarthritis, what's the best exercise for me?

Hi, I have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis since July last year. I have it in both knees, elbows, wrists, ankle and some fingers. I have had steroid injections which worked the first time but unfortunately not the second. I used to do body pump, body balance and some cardio classes but have had to change these completely. I have good days and bad days, this weather being the worst. I have tried low impact classes like body vive and zumba which I manage and have been in the gym doing interval training on the treadmill. One of the fitness team has suggested I try the power plate once a week for 30 mins what do you think and any other suggestions please? Thanks

A.

Our expert says...

Hi,

Firstly well done on changing your classes and adjusting your exercise approach accordingly, its crucial to listen to your body and respect it with rest when you experience pain.

Osteoarthritis is not usually a progressive and crippling arthritis in the way that some other forms, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can be and it is a condition concerning ‘bone growth’ – where the body stimulates extra bone cells at a joint that can cause reduced joint space and pain. This is a positive as the right TYPE and AMOUNT of exercise will help to maintain the strength of the protective structures that support your joints, ligaments and tendons. Ultimately, you want to reduce pain in the affected areas, improve joint function, and prevent disability, all with the ultimate goal of improving and maintaining your quality of life and exercise can greatly assist this.  

If you experience pain after a certain class then discontinue this class (at least for 2 weeks), after which you could try the same process. The reason for this is to rule out any other factors that could have brought about the pain as opposed to it being the class. With classes that repeatedly cause you pain, I would consider removing from your exercise plan as you appear to have done already.

One of the most important way to prevent wear and tear of joints is to ensure the joints move properly and this requires specific strength and stabilization training. My advice would be to see a fitness professional (at your gym if you are a member of one) who is part of REPs (the Register of Exercise Professionals), they should be anyway, and explain you want to improve the stability of your core and joints for running and to prevent osteoarthritis flare up.

A combination of muscle strengthening, aerobic/cardio vascular exercise and flexibility is important.  As you were only recently diagnosed, over time you will realise your limitations and exercises that aren’t comfortable. I would advise you to avoid any identified trigger exercises and substitute them with appropriate alternatives, or ask a trainer at your gym to look at your technique and see if it can be altered.  Always listen to your body and don’t continue the exercise if it causes pain.

Strength training (lifting weights or using a stretchy band) will help strengthen the muscles around the affected joints. Try to complete exercises that work a group of muscles rather than one individual muscle in case it places too much stress on the joint. In the ‘resources’ section of the website are my ‘Home exercise articles’ and some of these exercises you find suitable – try them and see, using the elimination principle mentioned earlier.

Aerobic training is very beneficial as the impact from walking or running can actually help strengthen your bones.  It will also help avoid your joints ceasing up.  If you find that high impact exercise brings on pain in certain joints, swimming or water walking will help as it significantly reduces weight going through your joints.

Flexibility/range of motion refers to the ability to move your joints through the full motion they were designed to achieve. When you have osteoarthritis, pain and stiffness make it very difficult to move certain joints more than just a little bit, which can make even the simplest tasks challenging.

Range-of-motion exercises include gentle stretching and movements that take joints through their full span. Doing these exercises regularly – ideally every day – can help maintain and even improve the flexibility in your joints.  Front/back and side to side leg swings, shoulder circles forwards and backwards are some useful exercises.  It’s important not to ignore exercises for your hands and fingers.

Hand exercises can help maintain range of motion, flexibility, and strength in your hands so try the following for your wrists and hands:

No. 1: Start by holding your hand upright and pointing your wrist, fingers, and thumb upward. This also serves as the neutral starting position for many of the hand exercises that follow.  Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.  

No. 2: Keep your wrist straight in the neutral starting position and bend the base joints of your fingers, which connect the fingers to the palm. Keep your middle and end joints and your wrist straight. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat twice daily on each hand.

No. 3: Keep your wrist and the base joints straight, and bend your middle and end joints of your fingers toward your palm, one at a time. Hold each position for five seconds. Repeat on all 10 fingers twice a day.

No. 4: Bend each finger from the base joint downward using your other hand to move your fingers. Repeat this movement using the second row of knuckles in your finger. Repeat this exercise on the third row of joints in your fingers, closest to the fingertips. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on all 10 fingers twice a day.  

No. 5: With your hand straight and fingers pointing upward, bend your fingers downward so they are touching your palm. Do not make a fist. Instead, your fingertips should be touching the palm of your hand. Hold for five seconds. Repeat on both hands twice a day.  

No. 6: Starting with your wrist, fingers, and thumb pointing upward, make an “O” by touching your index finger to your thumb. Hold this for at least 5 and up to 20 seconds. Repeat two to 10 times twice a day. 

No. 7: With your hands in the neutral position and all of your knuckles straight, slowly and gently spread your fingers as far apart as you can, like a fan opening up. From this position, make a fist. Hold each position for five seconds. Repeat on both hands twice a day.

Hope this helps,

Kelly

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