The importance of exercise for the gout sufferer
It’s a new year and yes the time for new year’s resolutions and what is the most popular new year’s resolution for people? Yes, exercise! Lose weight! Eat better! Most of you though will subscribe to a gym in January, only to give it up after a couple of months or 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.” 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 all know the benefits of exercise like improving the fitness of your heart, lungs, bone strength, mental well-being, improves energy levels and your sleep!
So you ask me the question, how can I exercise when I suffer from gout and my joints are so sensitive? And I reply to you that a lack of exercise will only worsen the disease and intensify the pain of gout down the road. Why? Because since your joints hurt, that makes you less likely to get up moving or exercising. This inactivity makes you less flexible, weakens your joints and muscles which can result in bone loss by the way intensifying the painful symptoms of gout. Exercise will keep you in shape, helping you maintain an ideal healthy weight, will increase your energy and will help you build strong bones, joints and muscles which gout slowly deteriorates over time. At the end, exercise will 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 can actually have the opposite effect and cause your uric acid levels to rise. Rule #1 before we move any further, if you are suffering from a gout attack and/or your joint is inflamed regardless if it’s due to a gout attack or not, do not exercise! Exercising during a gout attack and/or when a joint is inflamed will worsen your condition by causing you more pain and lengthening your inflammation. Listen to your body signals and only exercise when the flare up, gout attack or inflammation is over and begin gradually, building up slowly again. On a side-note, exercise has no effect whatsoever on breaking up uric acid crystals or tophi for that matter, just lowering uric acid levels and keeping them low.
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: Which 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 exercising, see stretching exercises below.
- Endurance or Cardiovascular Exercises: These exercises are will help improve your heart, increasing blood circulation, controlling your weight and giving your energy a boost. It is important to choose low impact aerobic exercises like walking, stair climbing, dancing, cycling which I love doing and swimming. Swimming offers the best aerobic exercise for the gout sufferer since this exercise does not put any stress on your joints since you’re moving in 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.
Finally, make sure to consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise regimen, your doctor will need to take a few things to account like gout stage and the severity of your gout as well as which joints are commonly afflicted so you don’t inflame them even more then you should. Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend different exercises like swimming instead of running, or using ellipticals instead cause remember most gout sufferers get gout attacks in the big toe affecting the foot area, so you have to watch your feet while exercising, trust me I’ve learned the hard way by over running and causing painful swelling on my feet. A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can help you by suggesting safe exercises as well.
Remember strenuous exercise can increase uric acid in the blood. How so? By not staying well hydrated you can trigger a gout attack if you’re not careful. I’ve said this many times, make sure to drink plenty of water, not gatorade but 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 afterwards. 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.
Posted by Spiro Koulouris
CHECK OUT OTHER RELATED POSTS: