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IT'S NEVER TOO LATE® Be Fabulously Fit as you age - by René Burton

ARTHRITIS and exercise

Until recently, it was widely believed that people with chronic medical conditions should avoid exercise. But today, a growing body of research demonstrates that just the opposite is true. Researchers have found that exercise can actually improve some chronic conditions, helping people feel better and live a longer and more independent life.

Arthritis literally means inflammation of one or more joints. There are currently over 100 forms of arthritis, ranging from conditions related to wear and tear of cartilage (osteoarthritis) to conditions associated with inflammation resulting from an overactive immune system.

Symptoms of arthritis include pain and limited function of joints. Inflammation of joints from arthritis is characterized by joint stiffness, swelling, redness, and warmth.

"If you suffer from arthritis, you may have heard that exercise can damage your joints." This in fact, is not true," says John Klippel medical director of the Arthritis Foundation. He stresses that "Moderate physical activity not only improves overall health but helps increase joint flexibility and improves range of motion, which means better functioning and less pain for arthritis sufferers. Strong, fit muscles support joints more effectively, protect joints from undue strain and injury, and help you perform everyday tasks more efficiently and with less pain."

As we grow older, we experience an increasing number of major life changes, including retirement, the loss of loved ones, and the physical changes of aging, along with day-to-day stresses. Our effective handling of these changes is the key to aging well.

Healthy aging is about much more than staying physically healthy. It is about maintaining your sense of purpose and your zest for life. It is about changing your attitude about aging. While the specific ingredients of healthy aging are different for everyone, the common factors are good mental health and the ability to manage stress. Knowing the basic formula for healthy aging will help you live with meaning and joy throughout your senior years.

MYTH: Exercise is bad for people with chronic conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease

FACT: The right kind of exercise is beneficial for virtually every physical ailment.

This is what some of my students say:

Creal, 67 – Arthritis pain
I have gained a lot of strength overall. I am also much more flexible. The arthritis pain in my wrists is 80% better than it was before I started the exercise classes. I am happy about that.”

Doris 76 – Arthritis and knee problems
“My exercise program has given me more flexibility in my walking and daily activities. When I don’t attend class or do some of the exercises at home, I don’t feel as well as when I am on a scheduled program. I find I’m more alert and have more energy. Thank you, René, for your help and encouragement."

Pat, 69 – Arthritis “Feel stronger overall. Back feels better with the stretching. Notice difference all day after class. Mentally, the fun of the class and socializing is much better than just walking. The mental exercise of counting and remembering moves have got to be good for the brain."

Marian, 70 – Previous back surgery, fibromyalgia, type 2 Diabetes
“Maintained weight, reduced pain (muscular & skeletal) increased flexibility, increased stamina.”

Donna, 73 – Rheumatoid arthritis
“More stamina in gardening can reach and bend more easily. More strength. Easier to carry groceries, vacuum, go up and down stairs. Do not tire as easily. Can walk farther before resting. Balance is better but need more work. More energy after class. Do not feel like a couch potato. Look forward to coming to class."

Rosemarie, 72 – Arthritis in ankle and knees
“Your stretching exercises helped me to overcome back muscle strain. To sit better in an upright position, to keep my shoulders relaxed. Your expertise, nice smile and humor make the class fun for all of us. It helps to overcome the burden of a half hour drive to come here. I have nobody else to laugh with. All my neighbor friends are old and sick and make demands on my time. Thank you."

Anne, 72 – Rheumatoid Arthritis
“Increase of range of motion, resistance exercise, flexibility, stamina, balance, endurance. Feel good about myself."

Mel, 81 – Arthritis, Mild Scoliosis
“Physically, I am able to do most of the exercises. Some are difficult. I do the best I can. I have increased stamina, agility and balance. In about one year I have lost about 10 pounds thru diet and exercise, and also decreased my BMI. Mentally, I feel better and enjoy being a student of the Emeritus program. I hope to continue in the future.”

René Burton is a Nationally Certified Trainer for the Arthritis Foundation credentialed to teach fitness instructors and fitness classes for people with Arthritis.

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