If you are living with arthritis, you are probably well aware that it is important to keep moving! Exercise is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The AEA Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program (AFAP) and Exercise Program (AFEP) are community-based programs with classes that typically meet two to three times per week. Classes include multiple components to help reduce pain and stiffness, as well as maintain or improve mobility, muscle strength and functional ability.
The AFAP and AFEP classes provide the most effective results when you know your limits. Remain mindful of what you can and cannot do safely and efficiently during your exercise routine at this particular moment. You know your body best, so do what is best for your body. Protect your joints and do not overdo exercise, remembering that each day is unique in how you feel and how your body responds.
As with any exercise program, start slowly with your doctor’s approval. Take your time and move at a tempo that is appropriate for you – this is not a race. Avoid excessive repetitions. Instead, gradually build up over time as you are able – this is not a competition. With careful attention to moving within your personal limits, you can reap the many benefits of exercise, including:
- Increase strength and flexibility
- Strengthen and protect the joints
- Maintain or improve bone strength
- Increase energy for daily activities
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Enhance quality of life
- Improve balance
Make exercise your way of life. When it comes to movement, something is better than nothing – the goal is long-term results through daily activities. If you cannot commit to, or cannot exercise for, a longer period of time, include several shorter bouts of activity throughout the day. Use exercise to break up your daily routine, and gradually increase your total duration of activity. Track your workouts to document your accomplishments and chart your progress.
Find, and focus, on the positive things to stay motivated. Regular exercise and daily movement of the joints will improve your personal health, give you a sense of well-being, and build higher self-esteem. When you know your limits, you will exercise within a safe and effective level, which will then allow you to grow your limits to the next level!
Ronda Brodsky, MS, is a physical education and health teacher at a charter school in Detroit, Michigan, with a master’s degree in physical education. She is an American Red Cross CPR, first aid, lifeguarding and water safety instructor. With over 30 years in the aquatic industry, Ronda has been AEA certified for over 30 years, and AEA AF Program Leader Trainer, and a previous presenter at IAFC. Ronda is a frequent contributor to the Akwa magazine, AEA’s member publication. She is the author of Aquatastic: Swimming Made Simple. Ronda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.