A lot has been said about the importance of exercise, regular physical activity, staying active, and avoiding the sedentary trap. It's paramount among all advice given to osteoarthritis patients. While most people with osteoarthritis understand that they should exercise, too often they circumvent it.
Justifying No Exercise
Doesn't it seem easier to just do the right thing, rather than avoid the right thing? Exercise is good for you, so you should just exercise, right? Well, it may not be quite so simple for you.
You may be fearful of exercise -- fearful that it will increase your pain level and make you feel worse, not better. Despite the the "no pain, no gain" theory, who would expect someone who lives with chronic pain to knowingly add to their pain? Is that what you think?
Maybe you are too busy, and can't squeeze it into your daily routine. It can be difficult for someone with osteoarthritis to keep up with work, family, and social obligations. The thought of adding something else to the mix can be overwhelming. Is that your situation?
Maybe you don't know where to begin -- especially if you contend with severe physical limitations. You may believe that your physical limitations won't allow you to exercise enough to reap benefits -- a feeling that if you can't do much, why bother at all. Is that what you believe?
It's not laziness that's keeping you from exercise. It's feeling that you can't. But if you think you can't, you're missing a key point -- what happens if you don't?
What Happens If You Get No Exercise?
There are consequences if you get no exercise or don't exercise regularly. It's human nature to think you can skirt the consequences -- but you can't. Here's essentially what happens. If you get no exercise, you could:
- Lose range of motion and mobility.
- Lose joint function.
- Lose muscle strength and become weaker.
- Have the tendency to gain weight.
- Increase your risk of depression.
- Have a less effective immune system.
- Increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
The less a joint is used, the weaker and stiffer it becomes. This leads to even more pain and loss of joint function. Even if you don't have much range of motion in a joint, there are ways to move and stretch, which will help strengthen your joints. A physical therapist can help set you on the right path. But even after a physical therapist teaches you safe and appropriate exercise, it will be entirely up to you to keep it going as part of your daily routine.
The Bottom Line
You should not view exercise as a choice, nor as work. Exercise must be considered a necessary part of managing your disease.