If you have been reading my blogs then you know that appropriate exercise is a very important component to preventing and treating osteoarthritis. Of course, never start a new exercise program without first checking with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to do so.
Also, it is not just "any exercise" that is good for keeping your joints healthy. Ideally, you should be doing joint healthy exercises. For example, while running is certainly better for most people than sitting on a couch, running on an elliptical machine is non-impact and is better for your joints than running on pavement. If you prefer to run outdoors, running on grass or a soft track is better than running on concrete. Also, swimming is generally considered a joint-friendly exercise.
In addition to cardiovascular exercise, specific exercises are good at targeting the muscles around the joints. Stretching and strengthening your muscles under the supervision of a qualified health care professional is one key way to keeping your joints strong and healthy.
Where is all this exercise to take place?
If you have joint pain, or have had joint pain, you may have gone to physical therapy and subsequently been taught a home exercise program. If you are looking to start a new exercise program, you may be wondering if it is worth your joining a gym or health club, or if you could do your exercises at home.
With another caveat that you should only do exercises after having been given clearance by your doctor, the following are some points to consider when considering whether or not to join a gym or health club. The points have been adapted from my book, The Arthritis Handbook: Improve Your Health and Manage the Pain of Osteoarthritis (DiaMedica, 2008).
9 Things to Consider:
Point #1: Going to a gym or health club gets you out of the house and can fulfill an important and satisfying social function for some people. The social aspect of exercise can serve as a positive motivator and be rewarding in its own right.
Point #2: The equipment found at most gyms and health clubs is probably better than the equipment and workout space you have at home.
Point #3: It is easier (and cheaper) to find a trainer at a gym than to hire one to come to your home.
Point #4: Committing to going to a gym makes you pick a time and stick to it. If you are planning to work out at home, it may become too easy to make excuses such as "I'll do it after this television show...or after dinner....or maybe tomorrow..."
Point #5: Health clubs have fitness classes that you might enjoy.
Point #6: A health club may not be easily accessible for you. If the commute to the gym is too long, it may prohibit you from going. This would definitely be a negative.
Point #7: Health club membership can be expensive. Then again, home equipment is not always cheap and usually you can find a gym such as a YMCA that is reasonably priced.
Point #8: Remember that you don't have to have rippling muscles and be a professional athlete to go and enjoy the gym. The models on the television at the gym are not the only ones who benefit from gym membership! Find a gym or health club where you feel comfortable. I have had patients say that they just don't feel comfortable going to a gym because of their physique. If this is a serious concern of yours and it will prohibit you from going, then that is certainly important to consider. But I would encourage you to not let this preoccupation dissuade you from finding a health club. Almost always this is an unjustified fear and once people get over that initial hurdle of joining a health club, they no longer feel self-conscious.
Point #9: Consider finding a gym with a heated pool. Aquatic exercises can be very helpful for all people, and especially those with osteoarthritis. The water buoys the body and takes the pressure off the joints while you are exercising.