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Home Health Education Living With Joint Pain
Arthritis Caregivers and Exercise: Getting Fit Together Print E-mail

Arthritis Caregivers and Exercise: Getting Fit Together

As a caregiver, you have a special partnership with your loved one who has arthritis. You help each other through the ups and downs of coping with a chronic illness. Why not help each other get fit as well? Exercise can be one of the keys to better physical and mental health for both of you. Sharing the experience may help you stay motivated and have more fun.
Survival of the Fittest

If you're like most caregivers, you probably think of others before yourself. Chances are, you already know exercise can help control the joint pain and swelling associated with arthritis. However, you don't need to have arthritis to reap the other benefits of exercise. These include increased stamina, improved flexibility, an enhanced sense of well-being, and a decreased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.

Many caregivers fail to care for themselves as well as they do for others. Many say they just don't have the time and energy to focus on their own needs. However, exercise can be a wonderful antidote to the feelings of stress and overload caregivers often have.

The Buddy System

One way to help yourself while you help your loved one is to exercise together. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that most adults take part in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three to five days a week, for at least 30 minutes at a time. Walking is a great way to get the benefits of aerobic activity while enjoying the company of an exercise buddy. If you and your partner have very different ability levels, the two of you could warm up and cool down together. In between, you might jog or briskly walk around a short track while your partner walks the same track at his or her own pace. Swimming and bicycling are two other aerobic activities you might want to share.

The CDC also advises adults to stretch every day. It's easy to do your stretches side by side, even if you and your partner are performing different modifications. In addition, the CDC recommends strength-building activities two to three days a week. If you use light weights, it's simple to adapt the intensity of the workout to each person's ability level by varying the heaviness of the weights.

Another possibility is taking an exercise class or joining a health club together. Have the two of you always talked about trying yoga or signing up for low-impact aerobics classes? Many fitness instructors are able to help students modify the moves to suit their individual needs. Be sure the person with arthritis tells the instructor about his or her condition. Also, if you have any doubts about whether a particular exercise program is safe for you or your loved one, check with your doctor. Then get moving. You may have fun exercising as a team.


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