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Caring for Arthritis in this 2020 Winter Season

The year 2020 has brought about many unique challenges and hardships. Now that the cold weather is upon us and most holiday events are canceled, most of us will be spending a lot of time at home this winter season. And if you add comfort food and holiday treats to the mix, you get a lot of people who won't want to get off the couch in the coming months!

However, the combination of cold weather, rich foods, and less movement is especially unhealthy for those with arthritis. Joint pain can flare up in cold weather, and many ingredients in comfort foods can cause inflammation.

Here are some tips on caring for your arthritis during this winter season.

Develop an indoor exercise routine

With many gyms closed and indoor exercise classes canceled, it is harder to stay motivated to exercise this year. And if you already have difficulty moving your joints without pain, you may not want to put in the effort to exercise.

But exercise and movement are vital to keeping your joints healthy. We like to say, "Motion is lotion." The tissues around your joints need to stay strong in order to protect your joints. 

Here are some ideas for keeping up an exercise routine:

- Find yoga or tai chi exercise routines on YouTube

- Do circuit training workouts to get your whole body moving

- Bundle up and go for a walk outside 

- Use dumbells (or soup cans!) for arm strengthening (all can be done sitting in a chair!)

- Set a timer every hour to stand up to walk around or do several exercises 

- Take advantage of online classes. These days, most places are offering free or inexpensive online exercise classes.

- Check out gentle exercise routines on YouTube or look up classes on places like Silver Sneakers. Find low-impact exercises on free apps like Melissa Wood Health.

If you feel comfortable outside the home:

- Join a gym and choose a time to go at least 3x a week

- Use a stationary bike, elliptical, or treadmill

- Consider swimming or walking in an indoor pool

- Mask up and walk the perimeter of a local shopping mall

Keep away from foods that cause inflammation

The holidays and stay-at-home orders are a dangerous combination when it comes to eating! Most holiday foods are delicious but very high in carbs, sugar, and trans fats.  These are the same ingredients that cause joint inflammation.

Avoid or limit high-fat, high-carb, high-sugar foods this holiday season. There are plenty of delicious alternative ingredients you can swap out for traditional holiday foods. 

Some of the best foods to enjoy include:

- Salmon or trout

- Berries and citrus fruits

- Leafy greens, broccoli, and legumes

- Whole grains

- Yogurt and low-fat dairy products

Be extra cautious on slick surfaces

Ice and snow create extra hazards for slipping and falling. Arthritis can often impair one's balance and stability, so be extra cautious when walking outside in the winter.

Wear appropriate shoes and take it slow. We hear of accidents every year because people are rushing to their cars or not paying attention to icy patches.

Keep up with the weather and salt your sidewalks and pathways if bad weather comes around. 

Take precautions to protect your health

Many medications that are prescribed for inflammatory kinds of arthritis can lower the body's ability to fight infection. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it's especially imperative that you take the recommended precautions to avoid getting sick. 

Even a common cold may affect your body much more aggressively if you're taking any anti-inflammatory medications. So be smart about social gatherings, wash your hands often, and listen to your body.

 

Winter is not always the kindest season for those who suffer from joint pain. And it's harder to remain disciplined when we're all more isolated, lonely, and cold. But caring for arthritis during this winter season is not impossible. If you choose to make healthy decisions, you will make it through this winter with ease.

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