Managing arthritis with diet, exercise and lifestyle

. Diet, exercise and lifestyle are three keys to how you can manage arthritis

. Keep active, stay moving and avoid slipping into a sedentary lifestyle

. Limit salt, sugar and processed food and incorporate fish and vegetables

. Learn how to deal with knee, back and hand arthritis

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is commonly referred to as pain, discomfort or dysfunction in the joints. It’s often seen in seniors because of a lifetime of wear and tear but can occasionally be seen in younger people as well. The first thing to note is that like a lot of ailments it’s sometimes out of your control. You may not be able to prevent it from taking hold due to a variety of hereditary and genetic factors. But by committing to a regular exercise plan you can strengthen the area around the joints which lessens the potential for inflammation down the road. Building muscle strength is imperative for seniors. It should be said that exercise doesn’t have to be taxing or time consuming – it has to be consistent and regular – a couple of times a week so your body can adapt and get stronger over time.

Managing arthritis

  • Stay active or the condition will deteriorate
  • Walking and swimming are great low impact exercises

As for managing arthritis day to day there are some common sense principles you can apply. Make the effort to stay active or your condition will deteriorate. Keep the blood circulating, the joints moving and the body in motion to alleviate some of the pain. Avoid living a sedentary lifestyle which only exacerbates the condition. Walking and swimming are low impact exercises that are a great way of doing this. If you can stay active and lose a little weight you will certainly ease the burden on your knees, hips and joints which is a great first step. Mayo clinic lists age, obesity, family history, previous joint injury and gender (women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis) as risk factors, so if you fall under any of these categories you have to be extra diligent abut managing the condition meticulously.

Get into good Exercise Habits

A national health survey recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. But it seems there is certainly room for improvement as the AIHW states that 75 per cent of people over 65 were not sufficiently active as of 2014/5. This study outlines the correlation between exercise and the management of arthritis and states:

‘The importance for the inclusion of exercise training in the treatment of RA is now clear and proven. Exercise in general seems to improve overall function in RA without any proven detrimental effects to disease activity. RA patients should be encouraged to include some form of aerobic and resistance exercise training as part of their routine care.’

Arthritis Australia gives a good overview of what type of exercise you should be looking to incorporate into your weekly program. They suggest focusing on exercises that can help you improve fitness, flexibility and strength training. Anything that improves your mobility and gets you up and about is certainly beneficial in this regard. The activities listed there include walking, water exercise, tai chi, yoga and dancing.

While it’s important to exercise regularly, it’s also important to exercise correctly. Your joints are like shock absorbers so you want to treat them well. Learn to use the right technique so you’re not putting unnecessary stress on the body. Also make it a point to stretch properly as a flexible body is a body less likely to succumb to injury.

Eating well helps to manage arthritis

  • Fish and Omega 3 fatty acids are of great benefit
  • Garlic, ginger, spinach and Olive oil are also beneficial

In regards to diet, we have previously looked at the value of berries and fish in the fight against arthritis. These are two great foods that you should really look to incorporate into your diet if you are serious about managing the condition. Berries are high in antioxidants, have considerable anti-inflammatory effect and can help to reduce the pain associated with arthritis. Fish is the other food that you should consider if you are living with arthritis and are interested in pain management.

As the Arthritis foundation states: ‘Among the most potent edible inflammation fighters are essential fatty acids called omega-3s – particularly the kinds of fatty acids found in fish.’ In terms of the type of fish they say ‘The best sources of marine omega-3s are fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel. Eating a 3- to 6-ounce serving of these fish two to four times a week is recommended for lowering inflammation.’

Similarly, this study makes further observations on the value of dietary interventions: ‘We believe that an ideal meal can include raw or moderately cooked vegetables with addition of spices like turmeric and ginger, seasonal fruits and probiotic yogurt’. These are ‘good sources of natural antioxidants and deliver anti-inflammatory effects.’ It goes on to say that it’s best to avoid processed food and high salt. Healthine gives a good account of all the foods that may improve the condition like garlic, ginger, spinach and Olive oil and they also give a good overview of foods to avoid like sugar, salt and alcohol that can potentially inflame the condition.

Knee Arthritis

The two most common forms of knee arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. The former is generally viewed as a wear and tear or overuse type of injury which sees an eroding away of cartilage and bone on bone friction which creates pain and swelling in that general area. As orthoinfo describes the latter is viewed more as an autoimmune disease which ‘means that the immune system attacks its own tissues.’ There is often swelling and inflammation and if left unattended can cause serious problems down the road in regards to long-term joint damage.

If you are worried about knee arthritis on a large scale you should certainly consult your doctor on the best course of action to take. If you are just gathering information about prevention the Arthritis Foundation has listed a series of exercises that might be beneficial. They are directed towards building up the muscles around the knee to provide a strong base. They state that these exercises ‘target quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes – the muscles that contribute to healthy knee function and help prevent injury.’ Healthline has also listed some exercises that could be useful. As we said earlier, the other thing you can try and do is to lose some weight to ease the pressure on your knees and lower body joints.

Back and hand arthritis

  • You may need target exercising around you back and spine
  • Avoid using tools that place undue stress on the joints

The other two forms of arthritis that are quite common are back and hand arthritis. Again, in both cases, it is divided into osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. One being a wear and tear issue and the other being a chronic disease that affects different parts of the body resulting in tenderness, tightness and joint pain. If you suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis you need to consult a doctor as soon as possible as in some cases you may need further x-rays and possibly surgery as well as obviously rest and recovery. If it’s not quite as serious there are certainly some good anti-inflammatory drugs on the market that can be prescribed as well as stop-gap measures like cortisone injections and applying come combination of heat and ice that may be able to alleviate some of the pain.

Depending on what your lifestyle is, the hands and back can obviously be quite sensitive areas that can potentially be exposed to stress and strain, so be weary of overuse and always make it a point to use the right techniques when dealing with heavy weights. Arthritis Australia goes through a good overview and explanation of back pain and the things you have to be mindful of. Some of the ailments that can occur include osteoporosis which affects the bones in the spine and the potential for a ‘slipped disk’ which affects the nerves in the spine.

Some of the recommended preventative measures include targeted training that looks to strengthen the muscles around the back and spine as well as tai chi and yoga which can improve flexibility. Medical news today also goes through what you can do to reduce hand pain including avoiding using tools that place undue stress on the joints, using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse and regularly engaging in gentle hand strengthening exercises like squeezing a stress ball or just making a fist.

But regardless of what arthritis it is that you suffer from the advice stays the similar in a lot of cases. Try and stay active, use proper technique when doing physical work or manual labour to avoid putting unnecessary stress on your joints and make it a point to eat the right foods. Genetics certainly play a role in regards to who is more susceptible and who may suffer stronger reactions so it’s certainly good to check your family history to get on top of it early and put in place solid preventative measures by activating the right diet and lifestyle as soon as possible.


Mayo Clinic: Arthritis

Arthritis – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

ABS stats: Research and Statistics

AIHW stats: Australia’s health 2018

NCBI: Benefits of Exercise in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arthritis Foundation: Best fish for arthritis

NCBI: Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis with Dietary Interventions

Healthline: The 10 Best Foods to Eat If You Have Arthritis

Healthline: 8 Foods and Beverages to Avoid with Arthritis

Arthritis Foundation: 6 exercises for knee OA pain

6 Exercises for Knee OA Pain | Arthritis Foundation

Healthline: Easy exercises for knee arthritis

Orthoinfo: Arthritis of the knee–conditions/arthritis-of-the-knee

Arthritis Australia: Back pain

Back pain — Arthritis Australia

Medical News Today: How to prevent and manage arthritis in the hands