Previous studies have proven how proper nutrition and exercise can alleviate the pain of arthritis. Now a new study shows the devastating effects for those who already have arthritis if they don’t exercise.
A recent study at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine looked at 250 participants, age 60 and older. They divided these into three groups. One group walked for 40 minutes three times per week, another spent time lifting weights and the third group did no exercise. The results, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that after 18 months, 53 percent of the non-exercise group had lost some or all of their ability to transfer from a bed to a chair, bathe, use the toilet and/or dress—obviously essential activities of daily life.
However, only about 37 percent of exercisers did.
As we get older, I believe the quality of our life depends more on what we do for ourselves—how we exercise, how we eat, and what goes on between our ears—than anything any doctor can do for us.
Here are some of my top recommendations for those with arthritis:
Nutrition. The suffix “it is” means inflammation. You can reduce inflammation in your body by reducing or eliminating saturated and transfatty acids in your diet and increasing beneficial fats like fish oils. Smokey Gibson, age 77, was amazed how quickly she felt better when she improved her nutrition.
Juicing. For people with arthritis, I recommend juicing—particularly using wheatgrass, a high protein, very concentrated source of vitamins and minerals that naturopaths say cleanses the blood. One client, an ex-professional baseball player, was hardly able to pick up a golf ball before he started detoxing his body and using wheatgrass.
Stretching. Pain in your joints can be eliminated or reduced through a variety of stretching techniques, including hands-on stretching like yogassage, movement re-education and PNF stretching, and daily therapeutic stretching at home, including yoga and yoga classes.
Weight-bearing exercise. Frail older people need weight-bearing exercise—lifting light weights—in order to get better. I recommend thorough stretching before anyone with arthritis lifts weights, as well as stretching between sets.
Daily walking. Walking helps to build the type II muscle fibers, such as the fibers along the spine and in the knees. Strengthening and building these endurance muscle fibers can be accomplished by walking 20 to 30 minutes every day.
Mayo Clinic: Exercise “The Single Most Important Anti-Aging Measure”
According to the Mayo Clinic newsletter (see www.mayoclinic.com for more information), exercise is “the single most important anti-aging measure.” When I begin working with clients, I begin with a health and fitness assessment and then I watch.
It never ceases to amaze me how clients who have exercised moderately and regularly their whole lives often have the minds and bodies of people half their age. One client recently only consented to exercise—at age 80—when his family was alarmed he could no longer get up and out of his armchair easily. Here’s what the doctors at Mayo say:
Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderately rigorous physical activity every day.
Choose an aerobic activity like walking, swimming or biking to raise your heart rate.
Lift weights every other day to build muscle and improve balance.
Stretch for as little as 10 minutes every other day to prevent stiffness.
“Exercise is the single most important anti-aging measure anyone can follow, regardless of age. It helps prevent coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, obesity, osteroporosis, senility and possibly certain cancers,” the Mayo Clinic newsletter reported. My favorite anti-aging exercises also includes yoga and Qi Gong, which incorporate all elements of fitness.
Breathe Into Every Cell of Your Body When You Exercise
Those who have studied in our yoga classes have heard me teach about the five vayus, or winds, in yoga.
These are crucial aspects of the breath, all of which must be working for you to maximize your performance in athletics as well as your health. Perhaps the most important vayu for exercise is vyana vayu. In Brain Gym, we call this navel radiation.
According to developmental movement research, the very first breaths the fetus takes in the womb generate from the navel outwards.
I find that many people who hate to exercise simply aren’t breathing, and that their breath is literally stuck in the core of their bodies.
When you can’t breathe outwards from your core, it is more difficult for oxygen to reach your arms and legs for whole-body movement.
If you hate to exercise and aren’t breathing deeply, begin your workouts by lying on the floor in a five-pointed star, legs and arms outstretching. Visualize your breath coming into your abdomen and then extending outwards, radiating from your navel.
If you are a golfer, visualize your club as an extension of your breath from the navel. Same thing with a tennis racket or baseball bat—extend your power through your breath.
Letting Go of the Try-Hard Muscles
Place your right hand at the top of your left shoulder. Squeeze. Is it tight? You have just discovered your upper trapezius, otherwise known as the try-hard muscles.
Many clients carry stress and tension in their upper shoulders. If you are one of these people, focus on squeezing the shoulder blades down and together during your workouts.
Stretch your chest muscles and open your heart. Think about lengthening your next and keeping your chin parallel to the floor. Just these simple changes can improve your posture dramatically!
As you learn to access your core muscles in the back and abdomen, you can learn how to take the stress out of these try-hard muscles and your entire upper body can relax.