Arthritis-Safe Exercise Guidelines From Arthritic Specialist Dr. Daren Wickum
These arthritis-safe exercise guidelines will help you confidently maintain an exercise program that won’t cause further damage to your joints.
As we age, it is more likely than not that we’ll experience stiffness or pain in our knees or hips. Exercise is an important component of joint pain treatment, because motion helps deliver nutrients to joint tissues. However, if joint pain is complicated by developing arthritis, an exercise program has to be carefully managed. Arthritis-safe exercise can protect joint health and prolong an active lifestyle. But too much exercise, or specific exercises that stress arthritic joints, may do more harm than good.
Arthritis specialist Dr. Daren Wickum has arthritis-safe exercise guidelines to help arthritis patients maintain a healthy and safe exercise program. “Arthritis is a progressive disease,” he says. “Although we don’t have a cure, there are a number of preventative steps patients can take to manage arthritis pain.”
Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand
“Nutrition is such a key part of preventative health,” Dr. Wickum observes. “A well-balanced diet and healthy weight prevent joints from being overstressed. Our registered dietitian can also guide patients to foods that may help alleviate joint inflammation.”
Avoid exercises that stress joints
Exercise can be a great way to conservatively manage arthritis, but not all exercises are equally beneficial. “Tennis is admittedly hard on our joints,” says Dr. Wickum. “If I have patients who love to play tennis, I don’t want them to have so much pain they can’t play. My focus is on keeping them on the tennis court for as long as possible. But that means that when they go to the gym, I don’t want them doing a lot of squats and lunges. There are arthritis-safe exercises they can do to safely condition their joints. Instead of working out on a treadmill with an uneven eccentric load, use the elliptical instead. Avoid the StairMaster, and consider yoga for arthritis as an alternative.
“I’m not going to tell patients to give up an activity they love. That’s the worst thing a doctor could say. Just because you have arthritis doesn’t mean you have to live a functionally restricted life. I want to keep patients engaged in the activities they love—but by using arthritis-safe exercises.”
“There are exercises that can keep patients conditioned without being hard on their joints,” says Dr. Wickum. “At the Summit Wellness Center, we offer a gentle yoga class designed for patients with arthritis. Swimming is another excellent workout that is very kind to joints. There is a wide variety of exercises that patients can do themselves—or under the guidance of a Summit performance specialist—to maintain fitness while sparing their joints.
Safe exercises for arthritis patients include:
- Floor exercises such as planks, push-ups, lunges, and leg lifts
- Upper-body strength training with hand weights and bands
- Exercise ball routines build core strength and balance without stressing joints
Function and mobility are things we often take for granted. We don’t realize their importance in our lives until we begin to lose them. But arthritis doesn’t have to spell the end of an active life. Summit’s arthritis specialists, like Dr. Wickum, can help you create a safe, effective exercise program. With an exercise plan that safely supports joint function, you can continue to enjoy living life on your terms.
More resources for you
Meet the Expert: Doctor Bio Video Series
Dr. Breien describes the patients who benefit most from a partial knee replacement.
Dr. Hansen explains why arthritis fellowship training is linked to better patient care and better outcomes.