Joint : Exercise to Ease Arthritis

Alyssa Harvey, Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky.

During the tune "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B," one of the participants of the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program at the Warren County Senior Center did a short dance Thursday during the class.

It wasn't long, though, before senior center manager Claudia Anderson led the class through some gentle stretching and cardiovascular exercise to help with the aches and pains that sometimes come with arthritis.

"Reach out and press," she said as she pushed her arms in front of her. "Now kick. The reason we do cardio is for our heart and lungs."

Anderson, who is certified by the foundation to do the classes, put the seniors through their paces. When some of the participants had trouble getting some of their steps in order, they joked and laughed with one another.

"You know what they say about not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time," Anderson said, laughing.

The participants got their chance to laugh with Anderson. The joke was on her when she forgot a part of the routine.

"Oh, hush," she said, laughing.

"It's a brand-new class. It was scheduled to end in November but will be a regular class, so we want people to join in at any time," Anderson said.

While the class is specifically geared to help people with the disease increase joint flexibility and range of motion and maintain muscle strength, not every member of the class has arthritis, Anderson said. Some of the exercises included squats while holding a chair, calf raises and others to work the shins and triceps.

"The more you exercise, the more you keep your mobility and range of motion," she said. "Anybody can come."

When talking about the importance of movement, Anderson compares the synovial fluid -- which reduces friction in the joints -- to the oil needed by the Tin Man in the film "The Wizard of Oz."

"The synovial fluid is our oil," she said. "The only way to release it is to move."

The class is definitely needed, Anderson said. So far, 11 people are signed up, but Anderson said she wouldn't mind seeing it grow.

"A lot of people don't understand how important exercise is to keep moving," she said.

-- For more information, call 783-4484 or 782-3162.

Safety tips

The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program cautions that when doing the exercises:

-- Listen to your body. Pain is a warning.

Remember the Two-Hour Pain Rule. Some muscle soreness is a normal response to exercise. If you develop joint pain that lasts for two hours or more after exercising, then cut back. If pain suddenly gets worse during an exercise, stop doing it.

Normal reactions to exercise include increased breathing and heart rate, some sweating and mild muscle aches. Stop exercising immediately if you get chest pain, severe shortness of breath, dizzy or nauseous. Other unhealthy reactions and signs of overexertion include excessive pain, fatigue, increased weakness and joint swelling.

If you have an inflamed joint -- one that is hot, red, swollen and painful -- only gently move it through its range of motion.

-- Move your joint until you feel a gentle stretch. Don't move past the point where you experience more pain than you usually have.

-- Move slowly and gently, giving your muscles time to relax between each repetition. Avoid quick, jerky movements. It is more important to try to reach your joint's full range of motion rather than increasing speed.

-- Combine breathing with exercising. Breathing correctly will help reduce muscle fatigue. Counting out loud will help you breathe deeply enough.

-- Begin slowly with just a few repetitions of each exercise, and gradually add more repetitions. Remember, if you've been inactive for a long time, it will take awhile to get into shape.

-- Move at your own pace. Don't try to keep up with anyone else.

Remember that many people with arthritis have ups and downs, so setbacks may occur. An exercise done easily one day may be too hard the next. Don't get discouraged and stop -- just cut back and do what you can.

If you notice a big change in what you can do, contact your doctor or therapist.

-- Never allow anyone to assist you in moving one of your body parts unless that person has received specific instructions from a physical therapist.

-- During class sessions, don't invent new exercises or substitute exercises you learned elsewhere. Avoid recommending other exercises that are not part of the program to other participants.

-- Don't neglect your medical routine. The exercises in the program do not replace exercises prescribed by a doctor or therapist. Exercise is just one part of arthritis care. Other treatments include medication, rest, joint protection, heat and cold treatments, etc.

-- Some of the exercises included in the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program may not be helpful for people with severe joint problems and those who have had joint replacement surgery. Don't do any movements you've been told to avoid by a doctor or therapist.

(c)2012 the Daily News (Bowling Green, Ky.)

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