Arthritis – no barrier to exercise

Arthritis sufferers often think the condition they are stricken with means that exercise is not for them but that could hardly be further from the truth, says one Birmingham based fitness expert.

October 12th marks World Arthritis Day 2008, which is aimed at raising awareness for the disease with its ‘think positive’ campaign.

This campaign acknowledges that arthritis sufferers hit many obstacles through their daily lives, which can negatively affect their mental state.

However by thinking ‘positive’ there are many things that can be done to improve the quality of their lives, including exercise.

It is estimated that 1 in 5 UK adults suffers from the disease, which can strike at any age; 12,000 children and 27, 000 people under the age of 25 are affected.

Symptoms such as joint pain, stiffness, fatigue an impaired mobility are common, but Birmingham Personal Trainer Gareth Ashplant, of Ashplant Fitness, says exercise can have a hugely positive influence on anyone suffering from arthritis.

“Health and fitness is a subject matter that is reported upon in the news almost everyday, whether it is the growing obesity issues or the latest celebrity who has gained a substantial amount of weight,” he says.

“However exercise is not only about being super slim or super muscular, it can also considerably improve the quality of life for many individuals suffering from health conditions, including arthritis.

“To give a real life example, a 40-year-old client of mine, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, has experienced phenomenal improvements as a result of introducing an exercise regime into his life.  He has gone as far to say that ‘exercise has given me my life back’.”

Two years ago, prior to starting an exercise regime, the client suffered with great pain, Mr Ashplant explains, and on some days he couldn’t even get out of bed and often used a walking stick to move round.

This pain, discomfort and inactivity also had an effect on his mental state, leading to a state of depression and lack of motivation.

“He has admitted to me that exercise was his last chance, to try and combat the symptoms of this condition and improve his quality of life. Well, two years down the line…and it worked.

“He exercises regularly, with two personal training sessions and his own training every week.  There have been vast improvements in flexibility, mobility, strength, mood and no more need for the walking stick to get around.  He is often performing exercises with 16kg dumbbells, balancing on fit balls and he now has the target of climbing mount Snowdon.”

Such benefits of exercise can occur with any able-bodied individual, but for arthritis suffers movement can often equal pain, so therefore excess movement is often avoided.

However, movement in a controlled exercise manner can improve the strength and mobility of limbs and often decrease the occurrence of pain. Before starting any exercise fitness advisers recommend sufferers consult their GP and talk to a physician or qualified fitness professional to set them on the right road.

“Arthritis sufferers should be encouraged to take up the ‘think positive’ campaign and not let this condition control your life,” Mr Ashplant concludes.

“Try exercise – it may just improve your mental state, it may just improve your mobility, or it may just completely improve the quality of your life forever.”

Gareth is the owner of Ashplant Fitness, a mobile personal training company, offerring effective exercise to clients across Birmingham, Solihull and the West Midlands.

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