Painful joint and limited range of motion make exercising difficult for people with arthritis. So what's the best form of exercise for arthritis suffers
While rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are the two most common types of arthritis, there are over 100 forms of this disabling disease. The one thing that all forms of arthritis have in common is that they are painful, disable joints, and make movement difficult.
Medical professionals often encourage physical exercise in order to maintain range of motion and ward off weight gain since weight gain will only add more pressure to unstable joints; however, arthritis sufferers find this difficult to accomplish. Arthritis not only makes movement painful, but causes fluctuations in energy levels as well.
Seniors, especially, often find it hard to stay active when dealing with arthritis. The inflamed joints and bone spurs caused by arthritis make movement a difficult task. It is understandable why many seniors have trepidations about an exercise program. Many forms of exercise involve impact on joints that are already fragile. The end result is that joints loose their range of motion and become stiff through inactivity. This only compounds an already bad situation.
Physical therapists have discovered one form of exercise that is an excellent alternative for arthritis sufferers - Tai Chi. Tai chi is an ancient form of exercise believed to have its roots in medieval China. Oddly enough, some tai chi movements have roots in the martial arts.
The Chinese believe that the flow of energy or chi through the body is essential for good health. Chi can also be translated as life force. When the life force is blocked, disease is the end result. Tai chi is one alternative therapy that helps the flow of energy in the body. Traditional Chinese medicine believes the flow of energy can be manipulated to increase physical and mental health.
In addition to being a form of physical exercise, tai chi is believed to be a form of therapeutic meditation because it focuses on breathing and quieting the mind. People who practice tai chi find that they have a greater range of motion in the joints, increased flexibility, and better balance. For these reasons, many health organizations, including the Arthritis Foundation, recommend tai chi as a form of exercise.
There have been numerous studies on the practice of tai chi and the elderly. Generally, the results show that seniors benefit more from this form of exercise than from a traditional exercise class. This makes sense since the impact on painful joints is reduced
The first time you see someone practicing tai chi, the movements will seem gentle and graceful. The movements have names such as "Wind Rolls with Lotus Leaves" and "White Crane Spreads Wings." These graceful movements have obvious benefit for anyone suffering from an arthritic condition. The slow gentle movements have proven to have definite therapeutic benefits.
As an added benefit, practitioners of tai chi report that in addition to relieving arthritis pain and improving balance, strength, and flexibility, it also helps with mental attitude. This aspect is especially important because current research is making correlations between depression and pain control.
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