Heart healthy exercise that is good for your joints

Contributed photo
Dr. Thomas Ryan performs procedures and surgeries at St. Mary's Hospital.
Contributed photo Dr. Thomas Ryan performs procedures and surgeries at St. Mary's Hospital.

Exercise has long been recognized as a powerful tool for improving heart heath.

Your heart is a muscle. It gets stronger and healthier the more active you are. When done regularly, physical activity helps your heart improve blood flow throughout your body.

This benefits everything from your lungs to your joints. One thing I tell my patients when they ask about exercise is the most important thing they can do is get started. Don't wait for the perfect routine or idea, just get started.

Regular exercise has other health benefits as well. Along with strengthening your heart, regular exercise will burn calories, lower your blood pressure and can reduce bad cholesterol.

Your joints also benefit from the exercise. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), nearly a third of adults with arthritis are physically inactive. Yet a CDC study shows that severe joint pain is more common among adults with arthritis who are physically inactive. In short, the best thing for joints is movement. Being active helps to lubricate the joints and recover range of motion. Best of all it is a low-cost alternative to reduce joint pain and improve heart health.

You don't have to be an athlete to create and maintain an exercise routine. When your joints are stiff and painful, the last thing you want to do is run or swim for an extended period. There is no need to run a marathon or spend an hour in the gym. Moderate exercise can be enough to improve heart health and relieve joint pain.

In fact, it is best to not overdo it. Some may push themselves too hard to reach their health goals. This can lead to potential harm to your heart and put undue stress on the joints. Finding a balance is best to maintain your healthy lifestyle in the long run.

According to the American Heart Association, a good starting goal for activity is 150 minutes a week, or about 20 minutes a day. Start walking every single day. Start with just 5 minutes or so and then increase each day until you can walk 20 minutes a day. But do it every single day. Another approach is increasing your speed. Start slowly and work your way up to a brisk walk or jog.

Low-impact cardio is a good focus for those that struggle with joint pain. These types of exercises can still help to reach cardiovascular health goals even when movement is more restricted. Swimming and cycling are examples of low-impact cardio, as they don't stress your joints as much as other exercises.

If walking is a struggle, the easiest thing is to focus on daily chores. Some chores, which you normally would avoid, are a terrific way to start being more active. Simple motions like sweeping and mopping can help to get your body moving. When joint pain is trying to stop you from exercising, just keep moving.

If you are unable to get those joints moving that much, then it is when you probably need to see someone to look at your joints. A great place to start would be your family doctor or an orthopedic specialist. There are many treatment options that can be used to get you back on your feet and moving toward an active lifestyle.

Dr. Thomas Ryan is a highly experienced orthopedic surgeon and provides the full spectrum of expert orthopedic care. He has a special interest and experience in joint replacements for hips, knees and shoulders. His office is in the new Multi-Specialty Clinic in the Health Plaza on St. Mary's Hospital campus. To make an appointment with Dr. Ryan, please call 573-681-3585.