By now, you know that I consider physical activity an integral part of getting — and staying — healthy. But some of my patients cringe when I tell them they need to exercise. Especially ones who are struggling with arthritis. And I get it: when you’re in pain, it’s hard to move, let alone work out.
But here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be a heavy weight lifting session or a 5-mile run. You can still get the benefits of exercise from low-impact activities. In fact, research shows one particular form of mild exercise can actually help combat the painful symptoms of arthritis.
I’m talking about yoga.
And now, researchers from Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center in Baltimore, MD have discovered its arthritis-relieving benefits. They recruited 75 people who had either knee osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. And according to the researchers, participants who took yoga classes twice a week and practiced once a week on their own for 8 weeks “reported a 20% improvement in pain, energy levels, mood and physical function, including their ability to complete physical tasks at work and home.”
Walking speed also improved to a smaller extent, and overall improvements were still apparent nine months later.
“Yoga may be especially well suited to people with arthritis because it combines physical activity with potent stress management and relaxation techniques, and focuses on respecting limitations that can change from day to day.”
So if you’re struggling with arthritis, it’s certainly worth a try. If you don’t belong to a gym that offers yoga classes, check your local YMCA or senior/community center. Most have yoga programs and even offer drop-in classes.