March 1st 2005
Exercise is a safe and effective therapy for patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. It can reduce pain, increase flexibility and strength, and prevent deconditioning. To help motivate patients to initiate and adhere to an exercise program, educate them about these benefits, encourage them to set specific goals, recommend that they commit to a routine for at least 6 to 8 weeks (the minimum time needed to appreciate significant results), and warn them not to be discouraged by initial soreness. An exercise program for a patient with arthritis should include stretching (to improve joint flexibility), strengthening (to prevent deconditioning of the muscles that keep the joints stable), and aerobic exercise (to enhance overall fitness). Isotonic strengthening exercise is particularly important because it can reverse muscle wasting. Recommend that patients exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Water exercise is especially beneficial.