Exercise Equipment Good for Someone With Arthritis

Exercising with arthritis can be a challenge because of a lack of range of motion and pain caused by stress on joints and bones. Adding equipment presents an even bigger concern because of the need to grip and resist weights and machines and the safety concerns related to dropping or falling off the equipment. Keeping in mind a few basic guidelines will help you select the right exercise equipment for your workouts.

Basic Considerations

Before you begin looking at exercise equipment and features, consider your goals. You may be looking to lose weight, improve heart health, increase bone density or improve flexibility. Some equipment will let you do it all, while some is made primarily for aerobic exercise or muscle building.

The Joint-Stress Factor

One of the first things you’ll want to look at when choosing exercise equipment is the amount of stress it places on your joints. If you are looking to burn calories and improve heart health, an exercise bike might be a better option than a treadmill or elliptical which require you to put all of your weight on your feet. The faster you move on a treadmill, the more calories you burn — but you’ll increase impact. If you choose an exercise bike, consider a recumbent bike. Unlike an upright bike, a recumbent lets you recline back in your seat, providing more back support and less stress on your knees and shoulders.

Improve your Grip

If you have trouble gripping small objects or any object for a long period of time, you may not be able to use some exercise equipment such as a home gyms, which require that you squeeze your hands almost the entire time. Resistance bands and dumbbells require that you hold a grip the entire time, but let you use less weight or resistance to perform exercises and hold a grip that’s less tense. A weight machine or resistance bands will be better choices than free weights if you are concerned about losing your grip and dropping weights during your workout.

Consider Impact

Exercise that lets you keep both feet on the ground, pedals or other platform during your workout is non impact. If one foot leaves the ground, such as during walking or step aerobics, the exercise is low impact. High-impact exercise occurs when both feet leave the ground, such as during running or aerobic dancing. Consider the impact the exercise equipment creates. An elliptical provides non-impact exercise, while running on a treadmill is high impact. A rowing machine is non-impact and puts no weight on your legs. Consider non-impact exercise equipment if you have ankle, knee or hip problems, and low-impact equipment if your joint pain is limited to your upper body.

Add Weight-Bearing Exercise

Equipment that you use while standing puts weight on your legs and feet, and creates stress on your knees and hips. Seated exercise such as that done on an exercise bike or rowing machine, creates leg, knee and hip stress as you push or resist the pedals or other part of the machine; however, you will not have constant weight on your feet throughout the exercise. An elliptical may cause stress on your knees, due to the fact that you will have your full weight on the pedals and be pushing up and down the entire time you are exercising; this stress won’t happen if you stay seated during an exercise bike routine. Consider how long you will be using a piece of exercise equipment, and how long you’ll be on your feet while you use it.

Additional Resources

Osteo-Arthritis.org: Exercise as a Treatment for Osteoarthritis

WebMD: Exercising with Arthritis