Arthritis, a condition characterized by stiff, swollen joints, can be difficult to deal with on a regular basis, but it only seems to get worse during the bone-chilling cold of the winter months. Everyone, from senior citizens to young children, can suffer from arthritis, so it can be useful to try some of these simple exercises that should help combat the aches and pains that accompany chilly weather. None of these exercises require any fancy equipment, so you can easily perform them in the comfort of your own home. (Please keep in mind that it is always advised to consult a doctor before undertaking any new exercise.)
1) Grip Strengthening
Sitting upright in a chair, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, rest your arms on your thighs. Keeping your palms facing upward, gently squeeze your fingers together to form a fist on each hand. Pulse your fingers, still in a fist, for 10 repetitions. Next, turn your fists over so that your fingers are facing down towards your lap. Pulse your fingers again for 10 repetitions. Gently release. This exercise will help strengthen your grip and ease the inflammation in the joints of your fingers and wrists.
2) Arm Stretches
Sit upright in a comfortable chair or on a couch. Raise one arm straight over your head, and bend your elbow so that your hand comes down to rest beside your ear. With your other arm, gently press down on the raised elbow until you feel a light stretch in your tricep. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Release, and repeat on the other side. Release. (See here for a visual demonstration of this exercise). Now, cross one arm straight across your chest, and use your free arm to push your elbow and arm towards your chest until your feel a good stretch in your shoulder.
3) Hip Extensions
To help with arthritis in your hips, stand behind a sturdy chair. With your hands on the chair, slowly lift one leg up straight behind you until you feel a stretch in your hips and thigh. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Release, and repeat on the other side. You can do this exercise as many times as is necessary to ease some of the inflammation in your hip joints and in your lower back. (See here for a visual demonstration of this exercise).
4) Hamstring Stretch
Sometimes arthritis can deeply affect your lower legs and ankles. A great exercise to relieve some of the pain in these areas is the hamstring stretch. Sit upright in a chair, with your feet flat on the floor. Gently lift one leg up at the knee until your leg is straight out in front of you. Flex your foot until you feel a nice stretch in your hamstring. If you need, support your outstretched leg with your hands. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Release, and repeat on the other side. (See here for a visual demonstration of this exercise).
5) The Bridge
If you have arthritis pain in your back, then you know how painful it is to just move from a seated position to stand up. The Bridge is a wonderful exercise to help stretch out your back, and it feels amazing all the way to your shoulders. Lie down flat on your back (on a towel or a mat), with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Press down on your hands, and raise your hips up, until you feel a stretch in your lower back and stomach. You don’t need to lift your hips too high; just go until you feel the threshold of the stretch. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then release. Repeat as many times as you feel comfortable. (See here for a visual demonstration of this exercise).
If all else fails, remember that walking is the best form of exercise when you want to loosen up your joints. If it is too cold (or the sidewalks are too frozen over) outside, just walk around your house from room to room for a few minutes any time that you need to warm up your muscles and get your joints working.