If you're undergoing treatment for arthritis, there's a good chance you've been told how important exercise is when it comes to managing your condition. When you think of suitable exercises, you probably imagine some gentle walking, a bit of stretching, and perhaps some slow movements to help relax your joints.
What you probably don't picture is weight training. However, this form of exercise is extremely beneficial for people with arthritis, especially those who have been doing other exercises for a while.
First of all, don't think of large, muscular men, straining under the weight of enormous barbells in the gym. There are a lot more possibilities to weight-based exercise, and it can easily be tailored to your ability level. Here are the things you need to know.
Choosing your weights
Generally speaking, the best type of weights for people with arthritis are the smaller dumbbell type. These are available in many different sizes, starting at a fairly small, light end of the scale.
To get the most from your purchase, choose adjustable dumbbells that can have weights added or removed as your needs change. It's also important to look at the bar that holds the weights and choose something you can hold easily and maintain a good grip without hurting your hands.
Once you've found the right weights for you, there are a couple of other things you should consider buying.
A pair of weight-lifting gloves is a great way to protect your hands while you exercise. They can stop the bar from rubbing your skin, and also make it easier to keep a good grip without straining, so you don't have to squeeze so tightly.
A second useful purchase is a pair of large-handled pliers to help you adjust your weights. The screws holding the weights to the bar can be fiddly, so this will make it easier to change them without help.
Before you lift any actual weights, practice the movements without holding anything. In some people with arthritis, just getting used to moving your joints repetitively can be difficult at first.
When you've got used to this, you can progress to using just the bars without any weights attached. This small amount of extra weight can make a difference when you're not used to it, and also helps you adjust to gripping the bar as you move.
Finally, add the lightest weights to your bars and begin using them in your exercises. Focus on slow, gentle movements and don't be afraid to take the weights off if it's too difficult.
As your ability improves, you can add more weights, but don't rush to do this. It's better to build up slowly, with more repetitions per exercise session using lighter weights than it is to make the dumbbells heavy and only manage a few lifts.