Practice these Walking Tips for Success if you Have Arthritis.
When your hips and knees hurt, it’s hard to get motivated by the thought of any exercise. Even walking can be dreaded more than anticipated with pleasure if your joints hurt. But there are many things that you can do to ensure that your exercise program is successful, even if you do suffer from arthritis. Follow these easy walking tips and you will be getting the exercise you need and enjoying it to boot.
But first, why is exercise important if you suffer from arthritis? It has many benefits including these:
- Walking strengthens the muscles around your joints.
- It gives you more strength and you will have more energy throughout your day.
- If you engage in a regular walking program, you will sleep better at night.
- Walking helps to control your weight and helps you to lose extra weight.
- It improves your bone strength and
- Walking just generally makes you feel better about life and your own feelings of well being and confidence.
I understand the reluctance to start a walking program when your back, or knees, or ankles or hips hurt from the pain of arthritis. I’ve been there. For years, I have avoided any exercise because it hurts when I try. I’ve gotten to the point where I now hurt even from a small walk and am winded from even the slightest bout of exercise.But, believe me…giving into this is counter productive. A lack of exercise actually makes your joints more stiff and painful. The reason is because good bone strength needs strong surrounding tissue. Exercise gives you this. Not exercising weakens those tissues and actually puts a great deal of stress on your joints and makes normal movements even more painful.
So, what is the answer, if your body hurts when you decide to start a walking regimen? These are some of the walking tips that I have found very helpful. Do I still hurt when I walk? Yes, for sure. Do I hurt as much now as I did when I started? Nope…not by a mile. ..pun intended. These tips really do work.
1. Stretching Helps. Even a few minutes of stretching will make your walk easier. It warms up the muscles a bit and makes movement much easier. It is not a good idea to do a full blown stretch (that comes after exercise) but a gentle one before I leave does help me. It doesn’t have to be anything special either. I just go out my front door and lift my legs onto my porch and lean forward to give my hamstrings a good stretch. Doing a couple of squats help too. The main thing is just not to use really cold muscles when you start out.
2. Buddy System. Any exercise is easier with a buddy. You may be the type of person who is raring to go when it is time for exercise, but I can assure you, I am not. Getting motivated is sometimes a challenge for me. But if my husband says “let’s go for a walk,” it’s harder for me to stay put. Find someone whose company you enjoy, and make a schedule so you will stick to it, even on those days when your joints are saying “not again!”
3. Sit occasionally. I know this sounds odd. After all, we are supposed to be walking aren’t we? There are times when my hips hurt so much in the middle of a walk that I don’t think I can take another step. I look around for something to plant myself on and sit for 30 seconds or so. When I stand back up…all the pressure has been released from my hips and I am ready to go again. That’s all it takes. 30 seconds Well, to be truthful, 30 seconds now and 30 seconds in about a half a mile and you get it….. But trust me, it works for me and helps me keep going. I know every single place where I can sit on my mile walk. At any given time, you can find me on a neighbors rock wall, or a large bolder. I have christened every fire hydrant within a mile. Anyplace where I can sit for 30 seconds works for me. It is amazing when I stand up 30 seconds later how much better my hips feel. Pushing yourself is good, but the aim here is to keep walking on a daily basis, not to give up because it hurts so much.
4. Change the route. Any walk, no matter how nice the surroundings, will get boring if you follow the same route every day. I am so fortunate to have a lovely one mile walk around my block which is very tree lined much of the way. I also have a cut through the woods to a long walk that meanders along a stream and around a large soft ball field with cared for gardens. Lake Benson walking trail is only a short car ride away and once I drive there is the most wonderful and scenic walk imaginable. Vary the route and you will find that you begin to look more and more forward to the daily jaunt. Look at my options below. Would you get bored with any of these walks? No way, no siree!!
5. Get good shoes. No walk is fun if your feet hurt on every step. Invest in a pair of good walking shoes. There are times when I just throw on a pair of sandals instead of taking the time to lace up. Guess what? Yup…you guessed it. My feet are killing me when the walk is done. So take a minute to lace up walking shoes. Your feet will love you for it.
6. Follow the shade. This tip is one that makes a difference for me. Most overweight people find that the heat bothers them a lot, and I am no exception. If you hot and disgusting when you walk, you won’t want to continue. I try to time my walk so that I can follow the shade of the trees around. It keeps me cooler and keeps me going longer and much more motivated. The opposite is true during colder times. Then I follow the sunlight instead!7. Take Fido. If you have a dog, and you are overweight, you will probably notice that your dogs weight goes up and down right along with yours. My dog Ashleigh gained 5 pounds last year when I gained too (shhh much more than 5!) When I lose weight, her weight goes down too. Dogs need exercise just as much as we do. If you want your pet to be around for a while, take them walking too. It makes you accountable and gives you a walking buddy too! Now if I could just get her to walk beside me. Darn alpha!
8. Make a playlist. I love music. I was a voice major in college and taught music in the public school system for five years. So, it is a no brainer for me to want to listen to music when I walk. But that is not the reason I do it. I listen to music for the beat. One thing that I have definitely learned my years of walking, particularly as it got harder, is that the faster I walk, the less it hurts. Sounds odd, but it is definitely true for me. Listening to the beat of an upbeat song makes my feet keep time with it and the pain is much less. So turn on the tunes. Get an MP3 player and download songs to it and make a playlist. I have several playlists depending on the length of my walks. I start and end with a slower beat (Pachelbel Canon and Fugue in D minor,) and keep the middle songs very upbeat to encourage brisk walking (Best of Inxs.)Trust me. It helps! There is no way my feet will plod along when a lively beat is playing in my ears.9. Split up the walking time. When you are first getting used to walking, a 2 mile walk is a LONG way. I walk one mile in the morning and another mile before dinner. It gives me the exercise time that I want without making me so tired that I don’t want to do it again the next day. It also only takes about 20 minutes at any time, so there are no excuses for saying that there is no time. Anyone can fit 20 minutes in. And they can also fit another 20 minutes in. But finding 40 minutes at one time makes it too easy to say “I don’t have time.” No one ever said it all has to be done in one go!10. Advil helps. I take Advil to manage the pain of my arthritis. As far as walking goes, I try to time it 20 minutes before I set out so that it kicks in when I need it most. Some days I don’t need it at all and others, I could not walk without it. I play it by ear in the morning depending on how creaky I am in the morning. I’ll let you in on a secret too…since I have been walking more, I am way less creaky and need the Advil less often. Get moving, folks!
11. Keep Track. I use Spark People to track both my calories and my exercise intake. (the good news is that if you exercise, you get to eat a little more.) I like to eat and I like organization. Tracking keeps me accountable and works very well for me. For those of you who have not heard of it, Spark People is a great way to journal your food intake and exercise output. It is a free site with a great and supportive community. It makes journaling a cinch. And for me, at least, journaling is the key to losing weight. Once I stop writing down my intake and output, the weight seems to creep on. It only takes a minute or so and makes such a big difference.12. Get Rid of the Excuses. This has been the hardest one for me. I’m an expert at telling you why I can’t walk today. “I need to spend time on my blog.” or “My hips and knees hurt too much, maybe tomorrow.” or “Just a few more minutes of sleep.” or “I have to cook dinner.” or whatever. They are all just ways to avoid something that you would rather not be doing. But the odd thing is, at least for me, when I actually do go for a walk, and finish it, I always feel so much better and am glad I made the effort. Soooooooooooo….ditch those excuses!The good news is that if you put some or all of these tips into practice, you really will find that you’ll be less achy when you get going and start to really look forward to the walk. It only takes about a week for me to start to develop the habit, and then I miss my walks when I don’t have them. Funny how something so easily avoided a few weeks ago is now something that I really look forward to each day! Oh…and I am now up to 2 miles in one outing. YAY ME!!
Do you struggle with finding motivation to walk when your body hurts? How do you motivate yourself? Please share your tips in the comments below.
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