Arthritis is a very common disease worldwide which affects one in five individuals in America and as it looks it will have a significant increase by 2030(1). The term arthritis actually refers to a variety of conditions where the musculoskeletal system (specifically the joints) and the skin are affected and provoke different rheumatic diseases, such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout and lupus (2, 3). In the past, professionals advised people who suffered from arthritis to avoid any type of exercise as it would affect and worsen the condition and the pain. Current research supports that exercise is a necessary part of patients’ life, as it will help reduce the pain, improve energy levels, reduce stiffness and improve flexibility and fitness levels (2, 3). Moreover, the combination of exercise along with healthy eating seems to have positive effects on the patients’ well-being (4). Below you will find some important nutrition and exercise guidelines that someone can follow in order to reduce arthritis pain and symptoms.
Follow a Mediterranean diet
Following a Mediterranean balanced diet seems to have positive effects to patients who suffer specifically from rheumatoid arthritis (4). A study that compared the Mediterranean diet vs the western diets showed that the Mediterranean one helped to reduce the inflammatory activity while it improved the patients’ wellness and physical function(4). Thus, add to your diet lots of vegetables, legumes, grains, cereals and fruits, consume low to moderate quantities of chicken, dairy and poultry, consume fish more often – as they are high in omega 3 fatty acids – and consume very low to almost none quantities of red meat especially if you are a sufferer.
In addition, add virgin olive oil to your diet as this is the main fat source in the Mediterranean diet (4). It is very high in antioxidants and oleic acid and helps in fighting the free radicals as well as it has anti-inflammatory effects. Another important part of the Mediterranean diet is the consumption of one glass of red wine along with one of the main meals (4). Red wine is high in antioxidants too. Of course, wine contains alcohol which has lots of calories too, so needs to be consumed in moderation and from the moment you don’t suffer from another type of disease. Check with your doctor or health specialist how much red wine you can consume along with the diet you follow.
Do Yoga Sun Salutations
The 3 most common types of exercise that seem to improve the condition are walking, swimming and biking (2). Flexibility though is a very important part that needs to be improved in patients with arthritis (2). Yoga is a type of exercise that helps in improving flexibility strengthens the body, works the core muscles, while it helps in reducing stiffness and arthritis pain. Of course not all the exercises in Yoga would be appropriate for an arthritis patient, but repeating sun salutations 2 to 4 times, without adding up too much pressure to the joints and ligaments would be an appropriate stretching for the sufferer. Try stretching on a daily basis to improve range of motion (2).
You can check with a fitness professional which are the best positions to go through for yourself but starting from the mountain pose, going through the plank pose and then do the downward dog pose, pass through cobra pose (try not to overextend) and then back to downward dog and back to mountain pose, is a main row that can be easily followed and stretch some of the required muscles. Resistance training with body weight or low weight and aerobic training are two other types of training that should be followed too and be combined with Yoga for better results (2,3).
Try making the above changes to your daily routine and the combination of a healthy diet and a regular exercise program will reduce the arthritis symptoms and it will help in making the everyday life easier.
- Cheng, Y. J., Hootman, M., Murphy L.B., Langmaid, G.A., Helmick, C.G (2010). Prevalence of doctor-diagnosed arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitation — United States, 2007–2009. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep., 59 (39), 1261–5.
- Wing, C., Ed., D. and Peterson, J., A., Ph.D. (2012). Exercise and Arthritis: Guidelines for the Fitness Professional. ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, 16 (2), 8 – 12.
- Helmick, C. G., Felson, D. T., Lawrence, R. C., Gabriel, S., Hirsch, R., Kwoh, C. K., Liang, M.H., Kremers, H. M., Mayes, M. D., Merkel, P. A., Pillemer, S. R., Reveille, J. D., Stone, J. H., (2008).Estimates of the prevalence of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in the United States: part 1. Arthritis Rheum, 58 (1), 15–25.
- Skoldstam, L., Hagfors, L. and Johansson, G. (2003). An experimental study of a Mediterranean diet intervention for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 62, 208 -214.