Walking is a safe, enjoyable, low-cost and low-impact physical activity enjoyed in all seasons and locales, individually or in a group. Those living with arthritis, an estimated 54 million American adults, can enjoy and benefit from improved strength and endurance from walking.
The following are a few tips to help make a walking program safe and enjoyable for those with arthritis:
1.Talk before you walk.
Have a conversation with your physical therapist to discuss if anything would prevent you from walking for routine exercise. How far or how long should you walk? What intensity or speed? Are there any barriers to keep you from starting a walking routine?
2. "Walk a mile in your shoes."
Much has been written about the health benefits of walking in both thinly or thickly padded shoes. There is some evidence that inserts and orthotics may help. Talk to your physical therapist about appropriate recommendations for footwear and inserts.
3. Walk with a buddy.
A walking buddy or group may improve your experience and safety. Such social walkers have less depression. Walking with a pet can be great too, but it can present its own challenges. Be sure you are walking a well-trained and leashed dog.
4. Listen to your body.
Modify your distance, time, and activity level based on what your joints are telling you that day. Sharp stabbing joint pains are a warning sign to reduce activity. Seek guidance from your physical therapist if joint pain is persistent.
5. Move safely and use assistance as needed.
Start slowly as needed. Practice consciously landing softly with each stride. A walking stick or hiking poles may relieve joint pressure and help with balance. Build the distance and time spent walking with permission from your body.
If your arthritis pain limits your ability to walk, a physical therapist can help. Physical therapists are movement experts who improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation. To locate a physical therapist in your area, visit Find a PT.
Access more tools and resources about walking with arthritis with Walk With Ease, a program from the Arthritis Foundation to guide you in developing your walking program.