What Came First: Arthritis or Inactivity? ~ by Ashley Boynes-Shuck

Of course, being inactive cannot cause autoimmune forms of arthritis or rheumatic diseases.

However, it can exacerbate symptoms and can also contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis, also known as OA, as many studies have shown. OA is the “wear-and-tear” form of arthritis, often caused by old sports injuries or just aging in general.

Exercise is recommended for almost all forms of arthritis, and a “use it or lose it” approach is often encouraged. (Physical activity can decrease stiffness and increase range of motion.)

Despite the suggestion for nearly all kinds of arthritis patients (as well as the general population) to exercise, many people do not. A new study showed that arthritis is a leading cause for inactivity.

So, in these cases, what came first – the arthritis or the inactivity? Arthritis can cause you to become inactive. However, being sedentary can also contribute to arthritis.

It is really a catch-22 – a conundrum if you ask me.

For example, I have RA and OA, among other pain-related issues. So, I don’t work out as much as I know I should. However, I do know that my lack of daily physical activity can actually be worsening my symptoms.

So what is an arthritis patient to do?

Here are some suggestions from the Arthritis Foundation:

“People with arthritis have specific barriers to being physically active, such as fear of increasing pain or making their symptoms worse,” says Arthritis Foundation Vice President of Public Health, Dr. Patience White.  “However, arthritis-appropriate physical activity helps reduce the risk of developing other health problems, and helps manage the disease. No matter your ability level, you can engage in activity to help fight arthritis pain and symptoms.”

Arthritis Foundation Physical Activity Tips   

  • If you’ve been sedentary, starting out gently is essential. Talk to your doctor about what types of activities will be appropriate for your mobility level. He or she may advise you to begin with simple, low-impact exercises, such as walking or water aerobics.
  • Aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week which will achieve the recommended 2.5 hours of at least moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.  You should do at least 10 minutes at a time and spread your activity throughout the week. Do muscle strengthening activities at least two days per week.
  • Incorporating a mix of different activities will not only keep you moving, but can enhance your enjoyment of your exercise time. Consider including in your routine exercise like jogging, swimming or yoga.

So, I suppose that it is all about moderation, and doing what you can when you can! Always talk with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine, and try not to let the fear of pain stand in your way from becoming more healthy and fit! It’s a slippery slope, but we can navigate it together!

You can read the recent Center for Disease Control report on arthritis and inactivity, here.

Stay Well,

Ashley Boynes-Shuck

What’s YOUR weapon against arthritis?

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