Arthritis is a disease that affects the body’s joints, causing severe pain and stiffness in sufferers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 50 million Americans that suffer from one of the dozens of types of arthritis, meaning that it is one of the most prevalent forms of disease in American society. Given the fact that arthritis causes severe pain and stiffness in the joints, exercise is often one of the last things that sufferers consider as a mode of treatment and pain management, yet physical activity is one of the most beneficial means of reducing these symptoms.
Exercise helps sufferers in several important ways including increasing flexibility of the muscles, increasing the range of motion in joints, and increasing the strength of the muscles that support the joints. One of the biggest issues associated with arthritis is decreased mobility due to the stiffness and pain it causes. Inactivity will actually exacerbate these symptoms, thereby making exercise all the more important. By actively working to increase both flexibility and range of motion, sufferers can begin to counteract the effects of the disease. By strengthening those muscles that surround the joints, a person can reduce the amount of impact on the joints that occurs from daily activities such as walking. In addition to increasing flexibility, reducing stiffness and pain, and strengthening the muscles, exercise can also help with weight management. By maintaining a healthy body weight, there is less stress placed on the joints due to excessive weight.
Another common issue associated with this disease is fatigue. Having a regular exercise routine is one of the simplest and most effective means of treating general fatigue, and it is recommended that arthritis sufferers follow the American Heart Association’s general guidelines for exercise: 30 minutes of exercise a day, 5 days per week. The Arthritis Foundation has several different group exercise programs available in many communities nationwide, and these programs and locations are listed on their website. Arthritis sufferers should focus on exercises that target increased range of motion such as gentle yoga, strength building including weight and resistance training, and low impact aerobic activities such as walking or swimming. Water exercise programs, such as water aerobics, are available at many fitness and recreation centers that have a pool. Water exercise a great alternative to traditional aerobics and group classes for arthritis sufferers, and can actually burn more calories than the same exercises being performed out of the water.
Some other tips to consider include applying heat to the affected joints prior to exercising. Heat actually helps to loosen the muscles and joints and can help with relieving some of the pain that is present. Use a heating pad or other heating device for approximately 20 minutes before beginning the physical activity. While exercising, remember to move slowly and avoid jerky and fast movements that could potentially lead to more pain in the affected joints. Lastly, applying ice to the affected joints after exercise can help reduce swelling and pain. Icing also can prevent some of the negative effects associated with inflammation and decrease recovery time.
Prior to beginning any exercise program, it is important to check with your doctor or other trusted healthcare professional to make certain that there are no serious health risks present.
In Wellness and Love,
Yeah, yeah I know, interesting topic right? Sweat seems to be more of an inconvenience that anything else, but to be completely honest, your life literally depends on your ability to sweat. Sweat is one of the body’s primary ways of regulating body temperature, and trust me, be glad that you sweat at certain times.
I want to give you a little anatomical background here, because after all, education is the key to growth and the more well- informed we are, the more impact we can have on our communities as we work together to create our Wellness Revolution!!!! Okay, off of my soap box and back to the topic of good ol’ sweat. There are actually two different types of glands in the body that produce sweat. Each of these glands produce sweat at different times, under different circumstances, and for all together different reasons. First are the eccrine glands which are found most commonly on the bottom of your feet, the palms of your hands, and your forehead. When you get stressed out, these guys begin to secrete sweat. Stress causes our body temperature to rise, and these little glands counteract this increase in body temperature. The eccrine glands secret the sweat on to the surface of the skin, which is the largest organ of the body, which then cools us down as the sweat evaporates into the air.
The second sweat producing glands are the apocrine glands. These guys respond to the hormone adrenaline, and they are most commonly found in the arm pits. The apocrine glands produce a thicker form of sweat and it typically has a slightly more milky appearance.
There are many circumstances that we encounter during our daily lives that cause one or both of these type glands to produce sweat which include: being anxious or nervous, working out, being outside on a hot day, getting a phone call from our boss about a missed deadline, sitting in a sauna, or getting pulled over by a police officer while running late for work because you have a deadline you’re about to miss. Regardless of the cause, the goal remains the same, to reduce the body’s temperature and prevent damage that occurs from overheating: Think heat stroke.
One downside to sweating is that it can lead to dehydration if you do not replenish those lost fluids, so make certain you drink plenty of water when outside on a hot day and during your workouts. A very general goal in terms of hydration is to make certain you’re drinking at least 64 ounces of water per day as an adult, and to increase this if being outside in the heat or if you are sweating during a workout.
In Wellness and Love,
One of my all-time favorite foods is watermelon! It’s kind of funny given the amount of foods that I have written about on my blog, that I have waited until now to discuss the health benefits of this yummy, juicy treat that's full of nutrients.
Watermelon is approximately 96% water, so during the summer it is a great way to increase fluid intake and to rehydrate after exercise. It is also high in Lycopene, which is a phytonutrient that is great for heart and bone health.
Watermelon is high in both flavonoids and carotenoids (powerful antioxidants) that are responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. The lycopene is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, and all the antioxidants help to reduce and repair the damage of free radicals.
Watermelon is high in beta-carotene and is a decent source of Vitamin C. 1 cup of watermelon provides 20% of the RDA of vitamin C.
Watermelon is high in the amino acid citrulline, which the body converts to arganine. Arganine has been linked to decreased blood pressure.
Watermelon is a good source of B vitamins, which are important for metabolism and energy production.
Watermelon is also high in vitamin A and along with the lycopene, this helps to reduce the risk of vision loss and eye-related disease.
Considering these health benefits, eat up and enjoy y'all!
In Wellness and Love,
As a triathlete, over the years I had my share of joint and muscle related injuries. Some of these to the point that it impacted my ability to train as I normally would through swimming, biking and running. Not wanting to lose the fitness that I had worked hard to gain over the course of a training year, I began looking into some alternative forms of exercise that I could engage in that would not add to my injury, while at the same time allowing me to continue the recuperation process.
Water exercise is something that many of us swimmers have at least encountered other people doing from time-to-time while we are the pool, but I bet that many of you have not given it a try. I have to say before going any further, water exercise is not only for older folks, nor does it have to be used solely for rehabilitation. Water exercise is an effective way to maintain cardio fitness, increase strength and keep you going in the event of an injury. Because of buoyancy, the water supports our body weight, which translates into a very low-impact form of exercise.
Water exercise is a great option for pregnant women, as it is a safe and more comfortable way to continue exercising while expecting. People with joint issues such as arthritis, back pain, severely overweight people, or other conditions that make walking and running difficult have found water exercise to be a tolerable form of physical activity. Most large fitness centers and gyms offer group water exercise classes that are lead by certified instructors.
Water exercise is also a great way for athletes to exercise similar muscle groups on back-to-back training days. The way this works is that an athlete can engage in a running workout on Monday, yet instead of running again on land on Tuesday, which greatly increases risk of injury, the athlete can run in the pool which will have much less impact on the joints. This allows the athlete to continue recovering from Monday's run. Water running is one of the most effective forms of water exercise, and utilizes the same sport-specific muscles that running on land does. If water running is too difficult, especially for folks recovering from an injury, water marching is a good starting point.
There are some water exercise tools that people can purchase to use to add variety to their water exercise programs. Some of these include flotation belts (used for running in the deep end, which adds intensity and resistance to water running), kick-boards (used to focus on building leg strength while swimming), water dumbbells (used to perform arm resistance exercises that are typical of land based dumbbell exercises such as shoulder raises and biceps curls), fins and water socks (also used for increasing leg strength by swimming or kicking type water exercises). Most of these items can be purchased online or at your local sporting goods store.
Water adds as much as 12 times the resistance as doing the same type of exercise on land. Vigorously treading water burns approximately 11 calories per minute, which is the same as running 6 miles per hour. Water exercise is a great way to add variety and fun to your exercise programs and can allow you to continue exercising through certain injuries. As always, check with your licensed healthcare professional before beginning any exercise program, especially if you have a preexisting injury or health condition.
In Wellness and Love,
Dr. Christopher Weaver DC, PAK is a Doctor of Chiropractic and Professional Applied Kinesiologist. He's published two books on health and Wellness.