About Exercise Machines for Arthritic Hips

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An exercise program benefits individuals with arthritic hips by relieving pain and swelling in the hip, increasing blood circulation to the hip, improving range of motion and flexibility, and boosting mental health. Some exercise machines offer the advantages of regulating speed and range of motion, providing stability and balance, and targeting the muscles and joints appropriately. Be sure to discuss your exercise program with your doctor before starting. Let pain be your guide. If any exercise feels painful, stop.

Exercise Program Goals

When developing an exercise program, a person with arthritis should consider these three main goals: (1) restoring or preserving the arthritic hip’s flexibility through stretching and range of motion, or ROM, exercises; (2) improving strength and endurance of muscles surrounding the hip through weight training; and (3) increasing aerobic conditioning through cardio training.

ROM and Stretch Machines

Stretching improves mobility and decreases stiffness associated with arthritis. Stretching-machines can help you gradually stretch the muscles surrounding the hip joint to promote a safe, effective stretch. Many clinics and gyms have one or several of the myriad stretching-machines on the market. Some of these machines, such as the split-stretching machine, target the hips specifically. Also, utilizing props such as stability balls, benches and blocks can provide you with stability and balance to ease you into a particular hip stretch. Some key points to remember while stretching is to never bounce, move gradually into the stretch, and only stretch until you feel tension in the muscles, never pain.

Muscle Strength and Endurance Machines

Maintaining muscle strength maintains the stability and integrity of your hip joint. An Arthritis Today article titled "Lower Body Exercises Dos and Don’ts" provides some exercise guidelines. You should avoid machines that place too much weight on your hips, such as squat bars with weights. You can use squat bars with no weights, however. The article recommends machines that allow for isometric exercises that strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip without moving the hip joint. Gravity itself or Pilates equipment provide muscle-building resistance without placing additional stress on the joints and, therefore, are effective options for your weight-training program.

Aerobic Exercise Machines

When choosing cardio workout equipment, avoid machines that place weight or resistance on your hip joint. Although not a machine, pools offer a safe tool for both muscle-strengthening and aerobic exercises. The elliptical machine and stationary bike, set to 0 percent incline, offer low-impact options for cardio exercise. Walking on a treadmill, set to 0 percent incline, creates minimal impact on the hip joint. Running or speed-walking on the treadmill may place too much weight on the joint, however, and so you should discuss even light running or fast walking with your doctor before participating in this activity.

Exercise Modifications

You can perform some exercises you have always enjoyed by applying modifications. Avoid repetitive-movement exercises and start your program and progress slowly. Repeatedly making the same movement with the hip joint can place significant stress on the joint. While using a low-impact machine, such as an elliptical, you should remain aware of any pain that develops upon extended use. By gradually building your exercise routine, you can avoid repetitive-movement stress on the joint. Before jumping into your workout, slowly warm up the hip joint first to increase blood flow and decrease joint stiffness.