The Ins and Outs of Gout and Exercise
As you may have guessed, regular exercise is a good idea for just about everyone. It helps keep weight in check, stave off chronic disease, and boost your energy and outlook. As it turns out, exercise can bring even more benefits to people who suffer from gout.
Your diet and genetics play a big role in how gout affects your life, but an active lifestyle can help every part of your gout management plan work more efficiently. Learn why exercise is crucial for comfort, and how to go about it when your gout symptoms threaten to immobilize you.
The Benefits (and Limits) of Exercise for Gout
Exercise is equally helpful for the mind and body, and this can be enormously helpful for anyone suffering from a chronic condition. For those with gout, regular activity can impact your risk of attacks, severity of symptoms, and recovery.
On the other hand, it isn’t a cure-all — you’ll need to use it in conjunction with other helpful lifestyle changes to see the best results.
Weight Control Lowers Gout Risk
Carrying too much extra weight is a top risk factor for gout. Many people with gout have high triglyceride levels (fat in the bloodstream), which points to a pattern of fatty diet and sedentary lifestyle.
But just as too much body fat will leave you vulnerable, losing that weight is one of the quickest ways to reduce your chances of gout attacks (especially if you’re a man between the ages of 20 and 40). Exercise is a very important part of the weight-loss equation.
Mobile Joints Recover Faster
Regular exercise keeps muscles limber, bones strong, and joints mobile. A body with a strong foundation will function more fluidly, and can recover from injury much more quickly and completely than a weak body.
This is important information if you live with gout: taking the time to build up your body strength, metabolism, and natural immunity will not only help you ward off gout attacks, but if you are sidelined by the pain and swelling of uric acid crystals, you are more likely to recover your strength and mobility quickly once the attack passes.
Exercise Won't Get Rid of Uric Acid Crystals
It may seem like the right joint movement should be able to break up those troublesome uric acid crystals, but that is not the case.
These crystals are microscopic — about as long as a white blood cell — so outside force does little to dissolve them. Instead, your body’s metabolic processes are responsible for their formation, movement, and breakdown.
Since your uric acid levels depend on a complex system of diet, metabolism, and genetic factors, you’ll need to couple your regular exercise with a gout-friendly menu plan and good self-care. Whenever you feel like your gout is getting out of your control, it’s time to consult with your doctor.
Should You Rest or Work Out?
Those prone to gout will need to listen to their bodies closely when it comes to exercise. While regular exercise is a key to better health and fewer flare-ups, certain circumstances can call for a gentler approach.
Watch for Inflammation
In general, inflammation is the deciding factor: if a joint is already inflamed, strenuous movement can make things much worse. Look out for swelling, redness, warmth, and stiffness; when these symptoms are present, it’s important to rest the joint and treat the inflammation with cold therapy or medication.
If your muscles feel a bit stiff, but your joints don’t show signs of inflammation, feel free to work out. Stiff joints can benefit from some mild range of motion exercises before you jump into more activity, and be sure to gradually increase your level of exertion — especially when you’re recovering from a gout attack.
Best Exercises for Gout Sufferers
Exercise is a pretty broad term — a workout could consist of everything from stretching to sprinting. Not everyone will be able to sustain a high level of exertion, nor should they.
When your joints are already prone to problems, and certain areas are particularly vulnerable, you’ll need to tailor a standard workout plan to suit your body.
Physical activity should begin with stretching. During the first day or so, it might be a good idea to limit the routine to stretching and range of motion.
Next pages: Stretches and exercises for gout sufferers.