Arthritis inflicts pain and stiffness on the joints of 1 out of every 5 American adults, and most of them are under 65. If arthritis is not properly managed, it can severely impact your mobility, your overall physical and mental health, your ability to participate in daily activities, and the caliber of your life.
The key to controlling your arthritis so that it doesn’t control you is remaining physically active, but engaging in exercise is an inherent challenge of the disease. Approximately 90% of arthritis sufferers don’t meet the minimum suggested recommendations for physical activity. This is most likely in part due to pain, stiffness, and a lack of knowledge about which forms of exercise are safe and accessible for people with arthritis. According to a study published in the April 2015 edition of the Journal of Rheumatology, yoga for arthritis is both safe and effective, improving the symptoms of arthritis by as much as 20%.
Susan J. Bartlett, Ph.D., an adjunct associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and associate professor at McGill University, explains, “Yoga may be especially well suited to people with arthritis because it combines physical activity with potent stress management and relaxation techniques, and focuses on respecting limitations that can change from day to day.”
8 Weeks of Yoga for More Flexible Joints
Researchers from Johns Hopkins randomly separated 75 people with either knee osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis into two groups. The control group was put on a waitlist while the other group engaged in 8 weeks of bi-weekly yoga classes taught by yoga therapists and one at-home yoga session a week. Researchers assessed the physical and mental health of participants before and after the study without knowing which group each person was assigned to.
Arthritis sufferers who practiced 8 weeks of yoga showed a 20% improvement in symptoms compared to those in the control group. Improvements showed up in pain abatement, energy levels, mood, physical function, and ability to perform physical activities both at work and at home. Even walking speed improved…and the effects were still going strong when researchers checked back in 9 months later!
Yoga emphasizes flexibility and varying positions, and if not practiced gently could be damaging to weak joints. If you have arthritis, train with a licensed yoga therapist who can ease you into the movements with grace and understanding.