The Importance of Exercise For The Gout Sufferer
It’s a new year, which means it’s time to make new year’s resolutions! What is the most commonly made New Year’s resolution? Exercise, indeed! Reduce your weight! Eat more healthily!
In reality, though, most of you will subscribe to a gym in January, only to give it up after a couple of months. This is especially true when spring comes around and that good weather makes you lazier to get your butt in the gym.
But if you have gout, you have to exercise. Let me repeat myself for emphasis added: “If you have gout, you should be exercising. Period.”
Your New Resolution: Stay Active!
So, make it a new year’s resolution and change your bad habit of not exercising and get moving! You don’t need a gym to exercise, you can do it from the comfort of your own home or outdoors where it costs you nothing.
We are all aware that regular exercise can provide numerous incredible physical and mental benefits. Some of the many advantages include improved heart and lung fitness, bone strength, mental well-being, increased energy levels, and better sleep!
So, you’re wondering how I can exercise when I have gout and my joints are so sensitive. And I respond that a lack of exercise will only worsen the disease and make gout pain worse in the long run.
Why? Because since your joints hurt, that makes you less likely to get up, move, or exercise. This inactivity makes you less flexible and weakens your joints and muscles. This may result in bone loss, by the way, intensifying the painful symptoms of gout.
Active Gout Patients Experienced Significantly Fewer Flare-Ups
Gout is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis. A study examined inflammatory pathogenesis in an acute model of murine (yes, mice) gout and analyzed clinical data from human gout patients as a function of physical activity to investigate the effects of regular physical activity and exercise intensity on inflammation and clinical outcome.
Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis characterized by inflammation caused by monosodium urate (MSU) crystals in the joints, tendons, and surrounding tissues. Consumption of purine-rich foods and beverages, as well as various health factors (obesity, heart, or kidney disease), may result in elevated serum uric acid and the formation of MSU crystal deposits in the body.
Untreated, gout may cause irreversible joint damage, chronic pain, and deformation. Aside from dietary and lifestyle changes, pharmacological treatments for gout include a combination of anti-inflammatory and urate-lowering agents.
The researchers discovered that low-to-moderate intensity exercise regimens may significantly reduce the inflammation seen in an acute model of murine gout.
Finally, the researchers discovered that as a preventative measure, the exercise would be beneficial to a patient with gout who is in a recovery period between flares in order to hopefully prevent or limit future flares.
Rest and reduced movement/weight are advised for a patient experiencing a flare with a red, painful, and swollen foot. The researchers, on the other hand, envisioned a standardized exercise regimen being prescribed during clinical inactivity to help reduce the severity and frequency of future occurrences.
Exercise Is Beneficial for Managing Gout Symptoms
Exercise will help you stay in shape and maintain a healthy weight. It will also help you gain energy and build strong bones, joints, and muscles.
In the end, exercise may promote faster healing from gout attacks. A 2008 study on gout and exercise stated that men who ran 5 miles per day had 50% less occurrence of developing gout than least active men.
Combining my gout diet tips from my eBook Gout and You: The Ultimate Gout Diet & Cookbook and exercise, there is no way you are not lowering your uric acid levels, no way!
That being said, you should not employ crash diets or overexercise causing rapid weight loss. Losing weight too quickly may have the opposite effect and cause your uric acid levels to rise.
Before we go any further, rule #1: do not exercise if you are having a gout attack or if your joint is inflamed, whether it is because of a gout attack or not! Exercising during a gout attack or when a joint is inflamed will aggravate your condition by exacerbating the pain and prolonging the inflammation.
Pay attention to your body’s signals and wait to exercise until the inflammation, gout attack, or flare-up has passed. Then start out slowly and build back up.
A side note: Exercise has absolutely no impact on dissolving tophi or uric acid crystals. However, it does contribute to lowering and maintaining low uric acid levels.
The Importance of Exercise When You Have Gout
Regarding managing gout, exercise has a protective effect. Consistent exercise has been shown to increase lifespan in people with high uric acid levels by 4-6 years in addition to lowering blood uric acid levels.
Obesity and weight gain may be reversed to reduce the likelihood of an acute gout flare-up. Exercise has also been shown to reduce inflammation.
Exercise also lowers insulin resistance, which raises the possibility of a gout attack. The best non-drug interventions to reduce gout symptoms have been shown to be this along with a low-calorie eating regimen.
Another area where exercise may help people with gout is in regaining strength and flexibility after an acute flare-up.
When you’re in pain, you’re less active, and when your body isn’t moving around much, your joints may stiffen and lose flexibility. According to a recent clinical review, exercise modalities may help you regain your ability after the immobility of a gout flare-up.
Another study discovered that people without gout who exercised on a regular basis were less likely to develop tophi. These are the bulbous joints caused by uric acid crystal buildup.
So, What Kind of Exercises Can I Do?
There are 4 major areas you should be covering in your exercise regimen:
- Range of Motion Exercises: These consist of keeping your joints flexible and mobile in order to reduce stiffness, a good motion exercise for your foot is to rotate your ankle in a circular motion. Other exercises include rotating your head and neck, ankles, or wrists.
- Strength Exercises: Devised to increase and maintain the strength of your muscles by using weights or doing resistance exercises. Remember strong muscles help to support and take the pressure off sore joints, strengthening your bones. Consider yoga or tai chi as low-impact strength exercises, see stretching exercises below.
- Endurance or Cardiovascular Exercises: These exercises may benefit your heart, increase blood circulation, help you lose weight, and boost your energy. It is important to choose low-impact aerobic exercises like walking, stair climbing, dancing, swimming, and cycling, which I love doing. To be honest, though, swimming offers the best aerobic exercise for the gout sufferer. That’s because this exercise does not put any stress on your joints since you’re moving in the water.
- Stretching Exercises: This will help your flexibility as well as your muscle strength. Yoga, pilates, and tai chi are the most popular. Examples include muscle stretches and moving a joint as far as you can.
Always Check with Your Doc First!
Finally, before beginning an exercise program, consult your doctor. Your doctor will need to consider several factors, including the stage of your gout and the severity of your gout. They will also examine which joints are commonly affected to ensure that you do not inflame them further than necessary.
Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend different exercises like swimming instead of running. Or they may recommend using ellipticals instead since most gout sufferers get gout attacks in the big toe affecting the foot area.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to watch your feet while exercising! Believe me, I’ve learned the hard way by running too fast and inflicting excruciating swelling on my feet.
A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can also advise you on safe exercises. Remember that strenuous exercise may raise uric acid levels in the blood. How so? If you’re not careful, not staying hydrated may lead to a gout attack.
Exercises to Help Mitigate the Risk of Gout Flares
When you have gout, it’s natural to wonder whether you should walk or run as part of your daily exercise routine. Without a doubt, the answer is a resounding yes — except during a painful gout flare.
In severe gout flares, even the pressure of a bed sheet can be excruciatingly painful. Most patients in this situation would benefit from resting and raising their feet.
Moving Safely During a Gout Flare
Uric acid accumulates in the body and crystallizes into microscopic fragments, which results in gout. Uric acid is a byproduct of normal metabolism. Uric acid crystals may build up in your joints, most frequently in the middle joint of your big toe or where the toe meets the foot.
Uric acid crystals may also accumulate in your midfoot joint and ankle. This might result in severe pain that is sharp, swollen, and even looks red and feels warm to the touch.
A typical gout flare-up may last up to two weeks, but anti-inflammatory medication may help you feel better faster. Your primary care physician or rheumatologist may suggest anti-inflammatory medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), colchicine, and glucocorticoids to reduce pain during acute gout flares.
How Walking and Exercise Help Relieve Gout
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind during a gout attack when you have swollen, painful joints, but that’s okay. One of the healthiest things you can do for your body during a gout attack is to rest.
Gout, according to the Mayo Clinic, may erode and destroy your joints if left untreated. That is why strict adherence to your medication treatment plan is critical. Physical activity and exercise are important for maintaining joint health when you have gout for two reasons:
- Avoid putting too much weight on your joints: According to this 2016 study, a healthy diet to control weight, such as the DASH diet designed to reduce high blood pressure, has been found to help people reduce their uric acid levels. Be careful not to lose too much weight too quickly, as this may cause uric acid to rise.
- Reduces uric acid levels to help prevent gout attacks: Researchers discovered that fat transports more uric acid in the body than muscle. As a result, by losing body fat, you can lower your blood uric acid levels.People with gout should focus on improving their cardiovascular health through exercise due to their increased risk of developing high blood pressure. Coronary artery disease and gout are closely related.
The Most Effective Way to Resume Exercise after a Gout Attack
Many doctors recommend aquatic (water) exercises as a good way to begin re-engaging in exercise after a gout flare-up. That’s because the buoyancy of the water will reduce the impact on the joints.
Additionally, low-impact aerobic exercises on a machine like an elliptical can be beneficial. Once the gout flare has subsided, it’s critical to maintain your joints’ flexibility by including stretching and range-of-motion exercises to encourage healthy joint movement.
Once you’ve begun to ease into post-flare exercise, it’s critical not to overdo it. Once the flare has subsided, patients should not experience pain when walking. If you have pain walking after a flare, return to using walking support and reduce your planned exercise until the pain goes away.
Don’t Overdo It!
When returning to normal activities after an acute gout flare-up, the most important thing to remember is to take your time. If you used to run before the flare-up, you should begin with low to medium-intensity exercises such as walking or cycling.
Exercises that have a high impact on the joint, such as skipping rope and plyometric jumps, should be avoided, especially immediately after an acute flare-up.
Exercise at a high intensity should be avoided because it can increase uric acid levels in the body and lead to another gout attack. High-intensity exercises, such as sprinting workouts, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and more intense cycling, raise a person’s heart rate to between 76 and 96% of their maximum.
Expert Exercise Advice for People With Gout
Gout does not preclude you from being active or even running on a regular basis; the key is to gradually increase your workout intensity. Before beginning any exercise program, consult with your doctor and physical therapist.
Here are five gout-friendly workout tips to help you get started and stay active with gout:
- Select the appropriate footwear: Because gout frequently affects the big toe, midfoot, and ankle, proper footwear is essential. A physical therapist can assist in determining the best footwear for a gout patient. A significant portion of their consideration is based on evidence demonstrating that specialized footwear benefits patients by changing the alignment of the leg and foot. This affects the activity of the foot muscles as well as your gait pattern, or the way you walk. These changes are intended to reduce the pressure (load) on your joints.
- Maintain a comfortable walking pace: Keep in mind that your goal is to move without pain. Begin slowly, walking at a pace that causes the least amount of stress and pressure. As you become more comfortable with your walking stride, try increasing your heart rate gradually.
- Include additional aerobic low-impact exercises: Consider including other heart-pumping exercises in addition to walking in your routine aerobic activity. For instance, you could try swimming or using a stationary bike. Because they don’t put as much strain on the weight-bearing joints in the feet, ankles, and knees, both of these are particularly advantageous choices for gout patients. Elliptical machines can be a wise decision to get your arms and legs moving without putting too much strain on your joints.
- Extend the affected joint: You’ll want to regain joint flexibility to ensure ease of movement once your gout flare has subsided. By slowly moving your joint forward, backward, and around to a comfortable limit, you can perform simple stretching. Increase the number of repetitions gradually by adding five more times.
- Use strength training to develop muscle: Strong muscles can protect your joints from wear and tear, especially if you have gout. Simple resistance exercises (using your own body weight) can be effective muscle builders in addition to weight training.For example, hold each end of an elastic resistance band and place your foot in the middle, then repeat your flexibility exercises while pushing against the band’s force.
Make Physical Activity a Part of Your Daily Routine
The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults engage in 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, such as brisk walking. An ideal exercise routine consists of three parts:
- Aerobic activity: These activities increase your heart rate and boost endurance. Aim to incorporate 30 minutes of aerobic exercise into your program three to four times per week.You could walk or ride a stationary bicycle. Consider taking a swim. Swimming and exercising in warm water can be beneficial to stiff joints. You may find that moving your joints is easier in water than on land.Furthermore, the water supports your body and reduces joint wear and tear.
- Stretching exercises: These exercises will help you increase your range of motion. Flexibility enhances other types of exercise and allows you to move more comfortably throughout the day. Make it a habit to stretch for 15 minutes every day. Stretching should be done slowly and smoothly.
- Exercise for Strengthening: If you haven’t been moving around because your joints hurt and are swollen, your muscles might be weak. You can build strength by using resistance equipment and performing weightlifting exercises. Your joints will be supported and injury-free by stronger muscles.To avoid injury, move slowly and increase the intensity of your workout as you gain strength. Everyday tasks like climbing stairs and lifting heavy objects will become simpler to complete as your strength increases.There are many methods for building strength. You could exercise using free weights, elastic bands, weight machines, or in a pool. Always stretch before beginning any strength-training exercise. Start with extremely light weights and gradually increase them as you gain strength.
Exercise Suggestions for People With Gout
- Begin slowly, but consistently, with an exercise program. The current exercise recommendations call for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This is a good place to start when it comes to weight management and cardiovascular health.
- High-intensity exercise should be avoided, particularly during and immediately following a gout flare-up. This can cause an increase in uric acid levels.
- Always drink plenty of water. Dehydration has been linked to elevated uric acid levels. Drinking water and avoiding sugary drinks high in fructose, which has also been linked to increased uric acid levels, are two examples.
- If you are having trouble controlling your gout or exercising, seek advice from your doctor. If necessary, they may suggest physical therapy.
- When it comes to weight loss, it is best to combine exercise and diet to lose weight gradually. Increased uric acid levels have been linked to rapid weight loss.
A Healthy Lifestyle Will Help Keep Gout Away
I’ve said this many times, make sure to drink plenty of water, not Gatorade but good ol’ plain water! Try and exercise at least a minimum of 30 minutes a day for at least 5 days a week. In the beginning, you may need to start with shorter sessions and then build slowly afterward.
Whatever you do, make sure to add some exercise in your daily life, it’ll make a big difference in your overall health as well as your gout.
Gout attacks typically last three to ten days. It can be months or years before you have another one. Exercise should be at the top of your to-do list during these times when you feel good.
Gout management requires moderate-intensity exercise. It can help with body weight and uric acid management. It’s critical to ease back into exercise after a flare-up. Exercises that do not aggravate your pain while still allowing you to move your body are best.