Staying active is one of the most effective ways to reduce pain and keep your joints supple and muscles strong. But we know exercising stiff and painful joints can be difficult and is often a daunting prospect.
When Mel was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in her knees and hands, aged 43, she was determined to stay positive. Eighteen months later, she was fitter than ever and managing her pain through a healthier lifestyle. Mel explains:
"The pain in my knees was excruciating whenever I had to walk upstairs and it kept me awake at night. Luckily the consultant who diagnosed me was really positive, encouraging me to make changes myself rather than writing out a prescription for painkillers.
Right from the start I was determined I wasn’t going to let arthritis beat me. My mum has rheumatoid arthritis so I’ve seen the vicious circle you get into when pain makes it hard to move, so you don’t move and the pain gets worse."I’ve seen the vicious circle you get into when pain makes it hard to move, so you don’t move and the pain gets worse."
I decided to exercise to keep mobile, to sleep better and stay positive. Shane, a personal trainer at the gym, knew about my arthritis and created a programme of weights, stretching and resistance training I could do without hurting my knees. I started slowly doing a little each time, stopping if anything hurt.
Within weeks I was able to walk upstairs without pain.
I also changed my diet, cutting out all the rubbish and eating good food. I was going to the gym or walking four times a week and found I was losing weight. I’ve lost more than three stone, I’m at a healthy weight and I’m the fit person I always wanted to be. I’ve even run 5k races – something I never thought I’d do!
My arthritis still gets me down. I get twinges in my knees and have stiffness and tingling in my hands which frustrates me. But when I’m having a bad week it’s never an option not to exercise. Staying active helps massively with my mental health and with managing the pain on a bad day.
If there’s someone out there who wants to get active but doesn’t know where to start I’d say just try something, however small. Set yourself a goal to move more each day and keep it simple; you could walk to the local shop each day or do some gardening. Don’t be put off if going to the gym seems like too big a step, find a form of exercise you enjoy and keep at it!"
Read our information about exercise and arthritis.