Exercise is a must for keeping joints in good shape, but when a particular joint is affected by arthritis, you need to make some changes to your routine. Marjorie Albohm, a certified athletic trainer and director of orthopaedic research at Orthopaedics Indianapolis, has a few suggestions on activities that work best for keeping the joints in your upper body healthy. What’s more, she also has advice about upper body exercises you should avoid.
Always check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting a fitness regimen, and if a movement causes pain, stop. If you feel joint – not muscle – soreness that lasts more than two hours after your workout, your regimen needs adjusting.
Do: Walk on a level surface or in the shallow end of the pool; swim laps using the backstroke, the sidestroke or a snorkel for freestyle swimming; ride a bike that doesn't require you to bend over too far (try a mountain bike on level ground or a recumbent bike); yoga and Pilates; leg- and core-strengthening exercises; use elliptical machines.
Don’t: Sports such as golf or tennis that involve arching and twisting your back; high-impact activities that involve running and jumping; toe touches; straight-leg sit-ups; double leg lifts; lifting weights above your waist.
Do: Walk on a treadmill or in the shallow end of the pool; ride a mountain bike that keeps you upright, or cycle on a stationary bike or recumbent cycle; use elliptical machines; lower-body strengthening exercises; yoga and Pilates poses that stretch the upper body; standing wall push-ups; warm-water exercises; shoulder shrugs.
Don’t: Overhead serves in tennis or volleyball; golf; rowing or canoeing; swimming the backstroke or freestyle; lifting weights above your shoulders; some yoga poses, such as the Downward Facing Dog, that support weight on the hands, arms and shoulders.
Do: Walk on a treadmill or in the shallow end of the pool; ride a bike, or cycle on a stationary bike or recumbent cycle; swim, using the backstroke; use elliptical machines; do flexibility neck exercises (such as head turns and tilts); yoga and Pilates; tai chi; warm-water exercises.
Don’t: Overhead serves in tennis or volleyball; bikes with racing handlebars; any abdominal exercises with hands behind the head; ski machines; lifting weights above your shoulders; swimming freestyle or using the breaststroke; diving.