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How Functional Exercise Using Resistance Bands Can Improve Arthritis Symptoms

Some people would assume exercise would be out of the question for those suffering with arthritis and joint pain. After all there are some forms of exercise that may cause discomfort.

While each individual situation will be different, exercise doesn’t necessarily need be off-limits with every case of arthritis.

Arthritis as you may well know is an inflammatory joint disease that causes stiffness and joint instability. Years ago, physicians would prescribe rest and inactivity as it appeared counterintuitive to “stress” and inflamed part of the body.

However, recent research has shown that some forms of exercise to be very effective with the management (and possibly prevention) of arthritis.

More after the jump…

Exercise and Inflammation

We now understand that exercise not only helps with inflammation, but it can also strengthen the muscles and thereby provide joint stability. Movement keeps the joints fluid and improves central nervous system function.

So the question becomes, “What kind of exercise is most beneficial for those suffering with arthritis?

While aerobic exercise like walking is beneficial for our cardiovascular system and can be included in a fitness routine when possible, the most helpful form of exercise is arguably functional resistance training using bands.

The benefits of resistance band training for people with arthritis can really be summed up in four parts: safety, efficiency, flexibility, and variability.

Sometimes there can be problems with weighted exercises due to the body’s natural attempt to compensate for pain and range of motion limitations. Imagine that you have arthritis in your wrists.

Doing a barbell curl, which targets primarily your bicep muscle in the upper arm, may put a lot of extra strain on the wrist. The body will naturally want to protect the part that hurts, so instead of targeting your biceps, other muscles will work to compensate.

This can decrease the efficiency of the exercise and lead to further inflammation in the wrist joint.

Resistance band exercises

A resistance band bicep curl can significantly reduce the stress on the joints and still allow movement and muscle contraction. Additionally, the range of motion that resistance bands provide over weight machines helps improve joint mobility and flexibility.

Training your muscles and joints by using a greater range of motion helps to combat the “stiff” feeling of the arthritic joint, making them more flexible.

While weight training for resistance work may still be possible and beneficial in some cases, where limitations occur the individual can experiment with resistance band work instead. Using a resistance band can ultimately offer more range of motion with less risk of stress on the joints.

The “functional” part of resistance band training revolves around the movements themselves mimicking natural human movement patterns. For example, the exerciser may use the bands for support and stability while doing squats.

it’s always better to perform functional movements

This would be a far superior exercise compared to a seated leg extension which does not involve integration of other muscles. The majority of resistance band exercises can be safely performed on your feet and provide greater benefit than being in a seated weight machine.

Understandably sometimes the exerciser will need to perform exercises while seated due to more serious joint issues, but when possible it’s always better to perform functional movements. See my article on functional exercise for more information on the benefits of this type of training.

Lastly, encompassing the idea of a greater range of motion (flexibility), resistance bands offer a ton of exercise variability. It is very easy to transition smoothly from one exercise to another, targeting the same joint but slightly different muscles.

This approach to exercise increases efficiency of time spent exercising, targets a greater number of smaller stabilizing muscles, and promotes the aforementioned joint flexibility that really is crucial to managing arthritis.

Use it or Lose it!

Keep it moving. Just like the old adage goes…If we don’t use it, we lose it. Arthritis need not be a reason to ditch exercise completely. You’ll want to minimize movements that apply a significant amount of joint compression and stress while still looking for ways to provide resistance to strengthen the muscles and improve joint fluidity.

If you’re a sufferer of Arthritis and live in the Charleston, SC area and would like to learn more about a safe and effective way to exercise, we’re here to help. My staff of fitness professionals are trained on developing personal fitness routines utilizing functional exercise. You can register for a free no-obligations consultation and trial by filling out the web-form on our homepage.

We’ve helped numerous Lowcountry residents with arthritis to reduce pain, improve function and mobility with a customized plan and instruction from a certified trainer.

Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Fitness Training Studios. If you’re looking for a personal trainer in Charleston, you can receive a no-obligations personal training trial and consultation without risking a dime. Over 1000 Charleston area residents have transformed their bodies following our unique burst training workouts and simplified nutrition programs. Experience the Shaping Concepts difference today.

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