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News Letter

Home Health Education Living With Joint Pain
Arthritis Patients Can Be Smart without Letting the Cold Weather Ruin Their Fitness Routine Print E-mail

Arthritis patients do not have to allow cold weather to end their fitness routines. But, if they are going to exercise in the wintry months, they should follow some common-sense advice.

Arthritis patients should see their doctor for a check-up before beginning a cold weather exercise program.

"Cold temperatures put more stress on the heart," says Richard Konsens, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon from Orlando, Florida.

Cold temperatures can also precipitate asthma attacks. A complete medical evaluation may help arthritis patients avoid this and other medical problems.

Because arthritis medications can affect the immune system, patients should take extra caution when the weather turns chilly. Arthritis patients should also be aware of sharp temperature transitions, such as moving from a hot gym to a cold car. These changes may increase both arthritis pain and chronic pain.

However, arthritis sufferers do not have to hang up their sneakers until the spring thaw. Brent Dodge, PT, CSCS, a physical therapist and strength conditioner in Missoula, Montana, says a number of "common-sense things" can help arthritis patients stay active during the cold winter months. For example, arthritis patients should:

  • Wear good footwear to help maintain traction in slick, icy conditions
  • Dress in layers to help keep their body temperature consistent during exercise
  • Wear gloves, a hat, and a scarf to keep their head and hands warm
  • Include stretching as a fundamental part of any exercise program

Dodge doesn't recommend arthritis patients use a wrap or brace they would not normally use just because of the cold. People can wear a sleeve to keep the joint warmer, but he believes devices like this shouldn't be relied upon for overall joint health.

Alternatives to exercising in the cold winter weather can include swimming in the community indoor swimming pool, riding a stationary bike, or walking on a treadmill.

"Anything that's low impact and where the temperature is controlled will work," Dodge says.

Arthritis patients may be more inclined to exercise regularly if they choose convenient activities they find enjoyable, that don't overtax the arthritic joint, and can be done on a social level. This can include aerobics, stretching classes, and group swimming classes.

If acute arthritis flares up, exercise may need to be avoided that day. But if a person's arthritis is controlled, they dress properly, and they warm up properly, exercise can be helpful.

"The cold weather does not have to be an excuse not to remain active," Dodge continued. "Arthritis patients can find something they can do and avoid a cycle of inactivity. They should find something that stimulates them so they don't make excuses not to work out."


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