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Chronic pain affects about 50 million Americans, many of whom struggle with joint pain caused by conditions like osteoarthritis.1 If you're one of these individuals, the idea of staying home to maintain "social distancing" might seem especially challenging.
After all, if you can't go to your gym, make your physical therapy appointment, or even take a walk around your neighborhood, how are you supposed to stay on top of your chronic health condition? Fortunately, there are things you can do to manage your arthritic pain and stay active at home...plus a couple reasons why it's important that you do. Always ask your doctor before engaging in any activity, to make sure it is suitable for your particular condition.
Many health experts encourage adults to move every day—whether that's by doing an actual workout or just adding in an extra activity like walking, stretching, or household chores. Advice like this is especially important for folks with arthritic pain. Here's why:
Some research tells us that regular exercise, including low-impact aerobic activities and stretching, can improve pain and function in people with arthritis and other joint conditions.2 Exercise is also an excellent stress-buster and helps you sleep, which is important for better mood and immune health.3 And since we know pain often feels worse under times of stress, regular activity is a good way to manage your chronic pain condition as well as your mental health and mood.4
So, how much should you be moving, even when you're sheltering at home or quarantined?
A general goal, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is to get a total of 30 minutes of moderately intense activity on all, or at least most, days of the week.5 At this intensity, your heart rate is up and you may get a little sweaty, but you should still be able to hold a short conversation.
Seems pretty reasonable, right? The good news is that some activity is better than no activity.6 So, if you're not able to do a half hour of exercise, you can still benefit from doing less—even just 5 to 10 minutes can be beneficial.
If you're currently not able to get to the gym or spend time outside, here are some ideas for staying active and managing your pain anyway.
If you don't think you can physically or even emotionally handle 30 total minutes of exercise per day, that's okay! Worrying too much about what you "should" be doing may end up making your pain worse and add to your stress and anxiety. And, no matter what’s going on in the world right now, we encourage you to do your part to keep yourself, your loved ones, and your community healthy.