Exercising with Osteoarthritis (OA)
People who struggle with OA often find themselves unable to do the kinds of exercise they have done for many years. The consequences of not exercising because OA may include weight gain, osteoporosis, muscle atrophy, and loss of flexibility.
There are a number of things that you can do to introduce exercise into a daily routine again. The first thing to do is to consult with your doctor about limits for exercise, and pain/inflammation management particular to you. Once that is set out, you should check back with your practitioner at regular intervals to review these concerns, or sooner if your condition worsens.
Braces that limit the range of motion (ROM) are available for knee, ankle and thumb, which may help support movement during exercise. It would be wise to consult with a physiotherapist, preferably one well versed in sports injuries and/or OA specifically, before buying a brace. He may guide you to an informed choice of brace. Some physios also do taping to reposition and support a joint before exercise.
As with any exercise program, it's important to warm up. A longer warm up period, say, 10-15 minutes of low intensity cardio, will be beneficial. After that, move on to a selection of low- or no-impact activities. Having several choices available, such as water exercise, elliptical, recumbent bicycle, yoga, and low-impact group exercise will give you options on days when the OA flares up, so you're not stuck feeling as if you can't do any exercise at all that day.
Other prep work should include getting a new pair of shoes that will absorb shock well and give arch support, to minimize the impact on knees and hips. Keep an eye on your shoes' condition and replace them as soon as they show signs of wear, or are less supportive.