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This is just out from AARP. That last paragraph has our names on it!

AARP has launched a new online fitness and weight-loss challenge to encourage caregivers to take charge of their own health.

What are the odds that caregivers will rise to the challenge? Not as bad as you might think.

The average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who has a job and a family. She spends 20 hours a week providing care for a loved one, usually her mother who lives alone about 20 minutes away. About six in ten caregivers say that their eating (63%) and exercising (58%) habits are worse than before becoming a caregiver. That takes its toll. Feeling bad about oneself, on top of the stress of too-full days, can put a caregiver on the edge of burnout.

But the 24/7 web is a lifesaver. The internet ranks second as caregivers’ go-to source for help — right after health and medical professionals. Searches for “care for the caregiver” come close to topping searches on AARP’s own Caregiving Resource Center. Plus, buzz has it that caregivers also cluster on weight loss websites.

So chances are good that caregivers will join the Care4YouToo online fitness challenge from July 14 to August 24th. Caregivers know they have to put their oxygen mask on first or risk the well being of their loved ones. They just need a little incentive.

To help the caregivers who join the challenge, twin fitness experts Kymberly Williams-Evans and Alexandra Williams will offer fitness tips, exercises and encouragement. The prospect of winning gift card rewards won’t hurt turnout either. Plus, it’s an easy time of year to find fresh fruits and vegetables.

Click on the Title Below to Read Our Latest Blog Post in Full

Exercise and Arthritis

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Is it Possible to Exercise with an Arthritic Hip?

picture of dancing woman

Keep on Dancing

Dear Twins: I just found your site and already feel encouraged. I am 56 years old and have been an ‘off again…on again” exerciser!! When I was much younger I was very athletic. Four years ago I trained to walk a 1/2 marathon but the week before the race, I pulled ligaments in my ankle. Since then I haven’t done much of anything.

About 6 weeks ago I began going to Zumba classes 2-3 times a week. Three weeks ago I began to have a lot of pain in my hips. I went to the doctor and was told I have arthritis in my hips and I also had bursitis. My doctor told me to lay off Zumba for two weeks and gave me a prescription to help with inflammation. He told me that I will probably have to take the medication long term to help with the arthritis but the pain from the bursitis will go away after a week or so. I have tried to go back to the Zumba classes but I am concerned the pain will start back up or get worse. I am in really good health otherwise.

Can you advise me as to the risks I would take if I continued to do the Zumba? Also, what other cardio activities can I do that will be okay with my arthritis in my hips? I really feel my best when I am exercising and just started to feel good and have more energy when the pain started. Any suggestions you may have would help!!

Carla, Abilene, TX

x-ray picture of hipsYour question is an excellent one, and will resonate with many of our readers. You are right about the many benefits of exercise, including for arthritis. According to the Mayo Clinic, arthritis can be slowed or mitigated with exercise – the challenge is finding the right type.

Low Impact Cardio

If your doc has cleared you to return to Zumba, you may want to ease in and modify the lateral moves (sideways, such as grapevine). Are you able/ willing to add aqua classes to your workout plan? Zumba aqua dance classes exist. You do not need to be a good swimmer to join an aqua class. Shallow water classes are in water that’s generally hip deep. If your gym has only deep water classes, you can use swim lessons as your workout, then wear the buoyancy belts once you’re a more confident swimmer.
For other cardio options, try anything that is low impact (high intensity is fine, but NOT high impact) and more forward and back than side to side. One caveat – depending on where the arthritis is in your hips, spending a lot of time on a machine such as a stair-stepper could be contraindicated. Besides, you seem to be a person who enjoys group fitness classes, so try a variety of those. A varied exercise plan is more effective than a repetitive one for most people.

Strength Training

You might also consider some stretch and strengthen classes. Stretch to open up the hips and strengthen to give your muscles more  of the workload, which eases the load on your skeletal structure (bones). Since you mention a ligament injury to your ankle, I would think strengthening that area might be a priority, especially if compensations are affecting your hips. Have you worked with a physical therapist to strengthen that ankle, while considering the impact on your hips (such as an altered gait)? You can probably even find a therapist who is ALSO a personal trainer by searching at ideafit.com or acefitness.org.

Range of Motion (ROM)

In addition to low-impact cardio and strength training, you may want range of motion exercises too. This article from Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center goes into more detail about everything mentioned above, including the need for tailored, specific range of motion activities.

Rest

Rest is an integral part of any exercise regimen, arthritis or no! Check with your doctor about creating the right combo of rest time, anti-inflammatory meds, ice, and possibly even meditation.

Partner with your Doctor

We’ve had good luck getting specific advice for our exercise-loving bodies by choosing primary care doctors who also value exercise. We’ve had some doctors who wanted to prescribe medicine for our arthritic knees. Their advice was to stop exercising. We switched to doctors who used medication as a last resort and aligned with our preference to keep moving. We are not advocating dumping your doc or ignoring his advice; we are advocating getting into a partnership with your doctor so that he can work WITH you to create a plan that includes exercise.

This quote is from Mayo: “Lack of exercise actually can make your joints even more painful and stiff. Talk to your doctor about how exercise can fit into your current treatment plan. What types of exercises are best for you depends on your type of arthritis and which joints are involved. Your doctor or a physical therapist can work with you to find the best exercise plan to give you the most benefit with the least aggravation of your joint pain.”

As women who are similar to you – arthritic joints, exercise-loving, youthful minds, mid-50s – we know it’s possible to keep moving. We just have to be pickier than we were 30 years ago. There IS a solution, and your positive attitude will be a big part of it! Please keep us posted. Happy dancing.

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Photo credits / Morgue File: X-Ray of hips: xandert; Dancing woman: Earl53