Spend time with your kids or grandkids and have fun while you're moving. Even with arthritis, you can enjoy the low-impact exercise you need to keep joints flexible and muscles strong. Try taking a class together or share an active hobby, such as swimming, golf, dancing, or gardening.
Take part in a local fun run, walk, or 5K with the kids. Talk to your doctor to make sure running or walking is OK for you. Then find out the best way to get started based on your flexibility, strength, and ability.
Knee osteoarthritis pain can keep you from spreading out on the floor to play traditional games like puzzles, chess, and dominoes. Instead, take them to a table so you can sit comfortably. Or introduce kids to active games like table tennis, foosball, or billiards that let you move around to help prevent stiffness.
Every pound of excess weight you lose takes four pounds of pressure off your knees. So a healthy weight may mean less arthritis pain -- particularly when you have knee osteoarthritis. Although no diet prevents arthritis or lessens its progression, a balanced diet is vital for weight management. Cook with the kids and whip up healthy muffins, casseroles, or breads.
Get small muscles in motion by getting crafty. There are so many things you can do -- from models, mosaics, and scrapbooks to jewelry, candles, and decorating clothes. If arthritis in your hands prevents you from doing a lot of cutting or painting, let the kids do the detail work while you do the bigger jobs or oversee the project.
Stretching and strength-building are vital if you have arthritis, so find a way to get some activity in while you're outdoors. Grab the kids and kick through fallen leaves as you head out to fly kites. Toss a ball back and forth, but buy several sizes, to suit your grip. Or design an obstacle course that encourages flexibility along with fun. Just be sure to listen to your body, so you don't overdo it.
Get an easy aerobic workout as you walk parks and trails with geocaching, an outdoor treasure hunt that uses GPS to find hidden objects tucked inside containers. Or take the fun indoors with active video games that get you moving and off the couch. As with all exercise, avoid specific movements that put too much pressure on your joints.
Get a spic-and-span house and yard with the benefit of mild stretches and range-of-motion exercises. If your kids or grandkids are small, keep pint-sized brooms, mops, and rakes on hand, then get "help" with the chores. Remember to take stretching breaks often and alternate motions so you don't strain your joints. Choose ergonomic tools for easier gripping.
Hide toys and trinkets around the yard or park (stretch gently when you are reaching to place the items), then join kids on a scavenger hunt. Or buy a few pairs of low-cost binoculars or magnifying glasses, grab a nature guide, and get some aerobic exercise as you search for birds, butterflies, bugs, or wild flowers.
Kids love digging in the dirt, so start a container garden or a couple of raised garden beds and see who can grow the brightest flowers or biggest tomatoes. Make sure you have great equipment, including pads to kneel on and ergonomic tools with fatter grips or longer handles.
Grab the kids and dog and get walking. Not only will you get your muscles moving, but a stroll can help relieve arthritis symptoms for you and your pet. Research shows that walking can ease pain, improve function, and increase quality of life for people with osteoarthritis. For a stronger workout, enroll everyone in dog agility training classes.
Whatever you do with your kids or grandkids, the point is to stay active. When you have arthritis, joints often hurt -- so it's tempting to stop using them. But then muscles get weak, joints have more trouble functioning, and pain may increase. So whether it's swimming, walking, or just spending time on the playground, it's important to keep moving.
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- Patience H. White, MD, MA, Arthritis Foundation, vice president for public health; professor, medicine and pediatrics, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
- Arthritis Today: "Starting a Walking Program," "Wii Fitness: Making Home Exercise Equipment Fun," "Smart Moves for Safe Cleaning," "Handy Garden Tools," "Dog Walking May Lead to Big Health Benefits," "Six Reasons to Walk."
- Arthritis Foundation: "Knee Osteoarthritis - New Study Shows Higher Risk," "How to Care for Yourself," "Easier Gardening."
- Auerbach, S. Dr. Toy's Smart Play: How to Raise a Child With a High Play Quotient. St. Martin's Griffin, 1998.
- Geocaching: "What is Geocaching?"
- Masi, W. The Parent's Guide to Play. Firefly Books, 2005.
- Brown County, University of Wisconsin Extension: "Gardening and Arthritis."
- Pets.WebMD.com: "Arthritis in Dogs: Symptoms and Causes."
- FamilyDoctor.org, American Academy of Family Physicians: "Arthritis."