Exercise programs for older adults with arthritis

Participants in the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program, a recreational exercise program developed for people with arthritis, learn gentle, easy-to-do exercises in chest-deep water in heated pools.

Arthritis is a chronic, often painful disease that affects the joints of the body. There are more than 100 forms of arthritis, but according to the Arthritis Foundation (AF) the two most common among older adults are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

OA is a characterized by a breakdown of cartilage that protects the bones. The bones then begin to rub against each other, causing stiffness and pain. RA is an autoimmune disease that attacks the protective membrane that lines the joints. Fluid then builds up in the joints, causing inflammation and pain. OA affects one or more joints in the body, while RA affects the entire body, as well as the internal organs.

The AF states that arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States. Sixty-five percent of Americans with arthritis are over the age of 65. Of those, 60 percent are women. There are nearly 1.5 million people living with arthritis in Northeast Ohio. 

“People with arthritis often feel there is nothing they can do to relieve their pain, but there is actually a lot they can do,” said Kelly Donahue, program and public awareness manager for the Northeast Ohio branch of the AF.  Said Donahue, “Research has proven that the best thing people with arthritis can do to control their pain and prevent further deterioration of the joints is to exercise.”

The AF recommends gentle stretching and range-of-motion exercises. They have developed three exercise programs especially for people with arthritis, offered at 225 locations in Northeast Ohio. They include a land-based exercise program, an aquatic program and tai chi classes. All of these programs strengthen the muscles around the joints, which helps to protect the joints, making them healthier and reducing the pain.

The AF exercise and aquatic programs are offered at Judson Park in Cleveland, and the tai chi program will be offered at Church of the Redeemer in Cleveland Heights starting in September. More locations are listed on the AF website at www.arthritis.org/media/chapters/orv/neoh/Program%20Calendar412.pdf. One should consult with a doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

Fortunately, there are several steps one to take to prevent arthritis. Avoiding joint injury and over-use, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly help lower one’s risk of developing OA. While the causes of RA are unknown, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising have been identified as factors that can lower the risk for the disease.

For more information, contact the AF at 216-831-7000, Judson Park at 216-791-2393 and Church of the Redeemer at 216-932-2065.

Judith Eugene

Judith Eugene is a native of Cleveland Heights who provides life-enrichment classes and activities for senior adults and those with physical and mental challenges. She can be reached at 216-408-5578 or Judith@LovingHandsGroup.com

Read More on The Senior Section: a resource guide for senior adults
Volume 5, Issue 8, Posted 11:23 AM, 08.06.2012