May is National Physical Fitness Month, but if you have arthritis or another type of physical limitation, fitness can be difficult to obtain. It is difficult, but not impossible. Why is it important? Studies show that physical activity or exercise can greatly benefit people with arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease. Exercise can also help people to regain or maintain balance later in life, which goes a long way to prevent injuries from nasty falls. Here are a few ideas for exercising with arthritis or other limitation:
Warm-Up with a light activity, like walking, for five minutes.
Stretch: stretching increases or maintains flexibility, which can prevent injury during exercise activity or an accident.
Neck Stretch: While standing or sitting, feet flat on the floor, turn head to right side until you feel a slight stretch. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds. Turn head to the left side and hold 10-30 seconds. Repeat this 3-5 times.
Hamstring Stretch: Sit with legs straight out in front of you, as close together as possible. Keeping back straight, lean chest over knees and reach toward feet. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
Balance exercises are key for improving balance and preventing falls. Try these:
Stand on One Foot: Stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Hold for 10 seconds, then stand on both feet. Repeat 10-15 times on each foot.
Balance Walk: Raise arms to sides, shoulder height. Chose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk. Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other. As you walk, lift your back leg, pause for one second before stepping forward. Repeat for 20 steps, alternating legs.
Strength building exercises are important for prolonged independence. A small gain in muscle can help with everyday tasks like getting up from a chair, opening jars, or carrying in the groceries.
Wall push-up: Face a wall, standing a little further than arm’s length away, feet shoulder width apart. Lean your body forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder width apart. Slowly breathe in as you bend your elbows and lower your upper body toward the wall in a slow, controlled motion. Keep feet flat on the floor. Hold this position for one second, then breathe out as you push your elbows straight again. Repeat 10-15 times.
Back leg raise: Stand behind a sturdy chair for balance, breathe in slowly. Breathe out slowly while lifting right leg straight back without bending the knee. Try not to lean forward. The leg your are standing on should be slightly bent. Repeat 10-15 times with each leg.
Source for sample exercises: The National Institute on Aging
For more information on simple exercises you can do with arthritis, please contact Jessica Riggin the OSU Extension Office in Chandler: 405-258-0560.