caregiver holding hands with a senior

This Saturday is World Arthritis Day. It’s a day dedicated to raising awareness and showing support for people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. This includes those suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but the list doesn’t stop there. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, rheumatic disease consists of disorders that affect the joints, tendons, ligaments, bones, muscles, and sometimes internal organs. Disorders such as lupus, fibromyalgia, gout, scleroderma, tendinitis and bursitis are included in this group.

To bring awareness to these diseases, World Arthritis Day was started in 1996. This year, the theme is “Living Better, Aging Well.”  The World Arthritis Day website encourages those who have rheumatic or musculoskeletal disease to “Get active!” The more active you are, the less you risk losing your mobility and strength.

Here are four “Get active!” suggestions:

1. Try Swimming and Water Exercises

Water increases your buoyancy, lifting some of your weight and easing the pressure on your joints. Water also adds resistance to your muscles, which gives you more effective workout while being less jarring on your joints. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise, but even if you can’t swim, there are plenty of other ways to get a low-impact workout in the water: water aerobics, walking in the water and any other simple water exercises to increase strength, range of movement, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness. And if you don’t have access to a pool, some simple water exercises can be done in your bathtub at home–but be sure to take safety precautions to avoid slipping or falling.

2. Create a Makeshift Home Gym

You don’t have to leave your home, join an expensive gym, or purchase expensive equipment to get a good workout. Set aside some time, turn on your favorite music, put on the proper shoes and attire, and you are ready to go. Use everyday household items, such as canned goods for weights, stools for sitting exercises or a chair back for stability during leg lifts or stretches. Walking up and down your staircase provides excellent calf exercises, tendon stretches or a step workout. Floor exercises can be done on your bed or on the living room floor. To add to your workout, consider purchasing equipment such as an inflatable ball or resistance bands.

3. Spend Time Working on Your Home and Garden

Stay active by working around your home, cleaning, cooking, gardening, etc. If too much activity wears you out, alternate working with resting. Work for a short period of time then take a break for a short period of time, and keep repeating the process. Gardening can be a rewarding activity. Plant window boxes, flower beds or raised beds (that are easy to access) and spend your time weeding, raking, digging, watering or pruning. It is exciting–and therapeutic–to watch things grow and to harvest the fruits of your labors. Take advantage of tools designed for people with joint problems.

4. Walking

For the most benefits, make walking a part of your daily routine. Walk as much as possible: to the store, around the house, around the neighborhood. Make it fun by walking with friends, listening to music or taking your camera and hunting for the perfect snapshot along your route. Always wear proper walking shoes that fit well and support the arches of your feet. Walk at a pace that suits you. Start slow, and if you can, increase your speed over time. One way to increase your workout is to do Nordic Walking or pole walking. Based on the cross-country skiing technique, walkers use poles to support and lengthen each stride, providing a better workout.

Always consult your doctor before you begin a new exercise program and have your doctor assist you with selecting a form of exercise that works best for you. For a complete list of “Get active!” suggestions, visit the World Arthritis Day website. Accept the challenge and use this day as an excuse to get active with your family and friends.