Arthritis sufferers are being told they must exercise – and this can be a daunting thought when you are in so much pain and full of stiffness and so tired from the lack of sleep, because the pain and discomfort keeps you awake half the night. Pilates is not just for the casual exerciser and certainly not just for women but also there is a dynamic Pilates manly that’s for man.

You certainly can’t do any high impact exercise.

However, there are plenty of low impact exercises that have helped a lot of people to ease their pain, reduce their stiffness, giving them more balance and stability. As the body relaxes less pain is experienced and you are able to sleep better, which makes the whole day look so much better.

Exercises in the pool. Doing your exercises in water is easier on your joints, the water’s buoyancy supports your body’s weight which reduces stress on the joints and minimizes pain. But you still need to be careful to not over do things at first. You can walk in the shallow end of the pool, especially if you find walking normally too painful. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a pool. You do need to bear in mind that exercising, swimming and walking in water are not bone-building exercises.

Yoga actually began more than 3,000 years ago in India. The word yoga is Sanskrit (one of the ancient languages of the East). It means to “yoke,” or unite, the mind, body, and spirit.Yoga includes physical movement, and certain lifestyle practices. Training your mind, body, and breath correctly is fundamental. The physical part of the yoga lifestyle is called hatha yoga. Hatha yoga focuses on poses. A person who practices yoga goes through a series of specific poses while controlling his or her breathing. Some types of yoga also involve meditation and chanting. It has been noted to improve your flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina. In addition, many arthritis sufferers who practice yoga say that it reduces anxiety, pain, and stress, improves mental clarity, and even helps them sleep better.

Pilates can easily be tailored to your individual needs where contracting muscles without moving joints can be useful when joints are inflamed. Then there is the movement of both muscles and joints helping to build strength and mobility. Pilates like most exercises recommended in this article pays particular attention to breathing correctly. For an arthritis sufferer there are what is called closed chain exercises, they put less strain on the joints while working muscles groups.

Callanetics once popular, very popular and well known is coming back with a program for people with arthritis type conditions. “Callanetics is a unique program that works your muscles with very small and very intense pulses. It’s a technique that gets results because every movement is mindful and precise (each pulse moves less than an inch). The concept was invented in the 1980s, but these movements have truly “evolved” (with new progressions that incorporate spinal stabilization, pelvic floor engagement and Pilates elements). It has a very refined feel – quiet piano music, methodical instruction and lots of between-move stretches”.

Qigong is an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention. Qi pronounced chee means the life force. Gong pronounced gung means accomplishment. Qigong practice involves a posture, (whether moving or stationary), breathing techniques, and mental focus. The gentle, rhythmic movements of Qigong reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality, and enhance the immune system. It has also been found to improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive functions. It also creates a balanced life style, which brings greater harmony, stability, and enjoyment.

Tai Qi It is increasingly being recognized that regular exercise reduces pain, fatigue, and depression, especially through the ancient art of Tai Qi. Tai Qi integrates mental and physical exercises to achieve a more complete, in-depth solution to the problems facing sufferers of arthritis and osteoarthritis. Gentle stretching and strengthening movements, exercises to increase the joints’ range-of motion, cardiovascular work, in conjunction with mental exercises. Deep breathing and visualization exercises help evoke healing energy and spirituality to reduce inflammation and stress. The mind-body exercises for arthritis can be modified and performed on a chair you are able to do them standing and moving slowly.

Walking has always been good for any condition. You can decide how far you can walk, you can walk as slow as you like at first. It is free and allows you to get fresh air and some UVs. Make sure you have walking shoes on with plenty of shock absorbency, making the experience as low impact as possible. You can wear a pedometer, this will tell you exactly how far you are walking each week – this will enable you to set goals.

Remember these exercises will not cure your arthritis but if you make one of them part of your life with other lifestyle changes you will make a huge difference to your condition, especially if you change your diet. Some people have told me they just don’t have the money for classes. So what can be done instead – second best thing would be a DVD that specializes in the older person, or is designed for someone with one of the many types of arthritis conditions. Walking is free and safer with the right foot wear.

Just start off easy and build up gradually.

Sonia Jones ND

Naturopath, nutritional therapist and author of three published books

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Top 7 Exercise Plans For Arthritis