No matter the state of your bones, joints and muscles, here are the best exercises to get muscle tone, boost energy and increase flexibility for the elderly, or rheumatoid arthritis patients.

by K. Molnar-Kimber, Ph.D.

If you didn’t have weak bones, joints and muscles or rheumatoid arthritis, what would you be doing now?

Swimming with your kids, or grandchildren?

Dancing your heart away with your loved one?

Golfing under par at your favorite course while enjoying chartreuse-colored cirrus clouds in the sunset?

Or, walking through or tending a lush garden sprinkled with red, orange, yellow and purple blooms wafting heavenly fragrances?

If you pick the right exercises for you, they’re enjoyable, improve your muscle tone, flexibility, boost your energy, raise your spirits and give you control of your life again.

Whether you exercise everyday, weekly or even if you haven’t exercised much for years or decades, today’s a wonderful day to begin.

With any new exercise program, it’s always wise to consult your healthcare provider.

First, let's enjoy a glass of refreshing water before you begin.

The following fills your body with fresh air and essential oxygen while ridding your body of gaseous wastes like carbon dioxide.

Taking deep breaths, especially of fresh air in the sunshine, invigorates you, as well as your bones, joints and muscles.

To breathe deeply, stand up and first exhale all the air from your lungs—pushing it out of your chest and then collapsing your stomach area to empty your air residing in your lower lung.

Secondly, then inhale slowly, filling the lower lung area—your stomach will go out as your lower lungs fill with air.

Now continue inhaling and filling your full chest. Hold for 5 seconds and then begin the slow exhale.

Slowly repeat 2-5 times.

For a variation, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Or you hold one nostril closed while you inhale and the other closed while you exhale.

Most Yoga books give more detailed descriptions of breathing. Deep breathing can also decrease the pain of arthritis, childbirth and calm the nerves.

Here’s a variation that floods your body with fresh air and energy.

Stand in the fresh air, and inhale slowly through your nose. Hold for 2 – 5 seconds and feel the fresh air and energy warm your brain. Then, feel the energy gradually cascade down the spinal column, like a bubbling mountain stream bringing fresh water to your whole body.

Exhale slowly through the mouth, especially getting rid of the stale air in your lower lung area. Be thankful you’re getting rid of of all that stale air.

Repeat 1-2 times.

I like to breathe this way at the beginning and the end of my exercises: More breathing exercises like this one are described in the book, “Healing with Ki-Kou, The Secrets of Ancient Chinese Breathing Techniques” by Li Xiuling.

Try it—What do you have to lose but stale air and a few seconds.

Before I tell you the best exercises to get muscle tone, boost energy, and improve flexibility for the elderly, rheumatoid arthritis patients, and others, let’s talk about the four different types of exercises.

Stretching exercises open the flood gates, sending fresh fluid into your bones, joints and muscles.

These stretching exercises help keep your bones, joints, and muscles limber. They help move your fluids—blood and lymph throughout your body.

Doing stretching exercises help you warm up your bones, joints and muscles.

If just a few of your bones, joints, and muscles are less flexible or even if you’re very stiff, stretching your bones, joints, and muscles helps.

Yoga is a great way to stretch your muscles.

Although many Yoga exercises are shown being done while sitting on the floor, you can also do them on a double or queen-sized bed. It’s easier to get up from there.

Best exercises to get muscle tone, and strengthen your bones, joints and muscles.

Many groups call them strengthening or resistance exercises.

The two types of strengthening exercises differ by whether you also move the joints.

Isometric exercises strengthen the muscles without moving a joint. For example, you push against something that is solid, like a wall.

Isotonic exercises strengthen the muscles while moving the joint. For example, an isotonic knee exercise involves straightening your knee while sitting in a chair. It helps strengthen your thigh muscle. Sometimes weights are added to further strengthen the leg muscles.

Many gyms, YMCAs and health clubs offer different types of strengthening exercises. They also have trainers who can assist you.

I think that the best exercise to get muscle tone –firm up your ankles, strengthen your legs, slim your hips, flatten your stomach and strengthen your arms, is called Callanetics.

Why? I personally saw how it firmed up my flabby muscles.

Just 15 -20 min a day greatly strengthened my bones, joints and muscles, improved my balance and sculpted a more firm body. It can yours, too.

My favorite book—soon to be yours-- is “Callanetics Countdown: 30 Days to a Beautiful Body/a Firm, Shapely Body in Only Minutes a Day!

I look forward to 10-15 min. of Callanetics every morning and you probably will too because of how you’ll feel afterwards.

Tai Chi also tones muscles and helps many RA patients. Classes occur at many gyms.

Thirdly, Aerobic Exercises strengthens your heart, improves your endurance, sleep and mood as well as strengthens your bones, joints and muscles.

Walking, swimming, water aerobics, and bicycling are a few of the common, low impact aerobic exercises.

Aerobic exercises boost your mood, prevent disability, improve the health of your heart and blood vessels, reduce cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and make your cells more insulin sensitive.

The Arthritis Foundation recommends rheumatoid arthritis patients include “aerobic activity in your fitness program three to four times each week, with a goal of working in your target heart rate for 30 minutes each session. You can work up to this goal slowly, starting with as little as 5 minutes and increasing as you get stronger and are able.”

Many of the local YMCAs offer aquatic aerobics for rheumatoid arthritis patients. This setting also offers companions, encouragement and fellowship.

If thinking about doing aerobic exercise for 30 min. is exhausting you, then give interval training a try.

Interval training's benefits rival regular aerobic exercise…without the wear and tear on your bones, joints and muscles during longer workouts.

In the Journal of Applied Physiology, Dr. Ed Coyle suggests that interval training yields "the same health benefits as regular aerobic exercise".

Martin Gibala, Ph.D., "It only takes a few short bouts of intervals every other day to improve fitness levels.

Here’s the basic premise:

You walk, swim or bicycle for 1-2 min at your high effort level. Then walk, swim or bike slower for a short time (1-2 min) and repeat 5-6 times as you're able.

The fourth type of exercises, called retraining, resetting or optimizing exercises teach your body new movement patterns.

Sometimes, when a joint or muscle group stiffens, you compensate and use a different set of muscles to get the job done. Often, in a few days, those muscles or joints become irritated from the extra use.

This starts your vicious cycle of pain and stiffness in another of your bones, joints and muscles.

I’d now like to discuss some different kinds of body work that can help you retrain and reset your movement patterns.

So you can gracefully walk or dance across the room.

First, Aston Patterning involves assessing your movement patterns, and then receiving a relaxing deep muscle massage, a joint massage or body massage.

Then the Aston Patterning practitioner helps you learn additional ways to move your bones, joints and muscles while walking, going up or down stairs, reaching, and more.

S/he also gives you body clues to practice so that you can easily remember the new movement patterns.

With my first few sessions, my walking greatly improved. My walking became a more graceful rolling motion through my feet, relieving the pain in my ball of my foot. I now go down stairs more easily and gracefully.

Secondly, Feldenkrais Method also helps your body explore new movement patterns by using gentle motion and directed attention.

I've personally find it very helpful--including for retraining my body to use its full mobility.

They describe it best: “You can increase your ease and range of motion, improve your flexibility and coordination, and rediscover your innate capacity for graceful, efficient movement.”

Athletes, dancers, musicians, and others often improve their performances by optimizing use of their bones, joints and muscles using these methods as well as others.

These body work methods can greatly improve the flexibility of the elderly and rheumatoid arthritis patients as well as their bones, joints and muscles.

In addition, other methods such as acupuncture, and Neuro Modulation Technique can also help resolve the viscous cycle by rebalancing your body’s energy flow. As promised, here are 6 quick exercises.

6 quick, painless exercises that boost your energy and lower the effects of your desk job.

(1) Take a short walk outside and slowly breathe fresh outdoor air in and out, feeling energy warm your brain and cascade down your back. Otherwise, just breathe slowly in and out at your desk or wherever you are.

(2) While standing or sitting up straight with your shoulders square, slowly turn your head and look to the left as far as you can. Hold 2 seconds and then slowly turn your neck and look as far to the right as you can. Hold 2 seconds. Repeat 3 times.

(3) Acting like a cat, slowly arch your back from the tailbone on up so your neck is relaxed and your head is down, hold for 2-5 seconds.

(4) Then slowly and gently raise your head while rocking forward on your hips and straightening your back and form a concave arch. Hold for 2-5 seconds. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for 1-2 times.

(5) Stand with your legs about a foot apart (or sit) and slowly swing your right arm out to the side and continue until your forearm is close to your ear. Face your palm forward and hold for 5 seconds while wiggling your fingers and wrist. Then move your arm back and forth (towards your head) just a quarter inch 5 times and then slowly bring back to your side. Perform with left arm.

(6) If you can hold your feet up, do so. Flex your ankles back and forth slowly 5 times. Then concentrate on your toes and wiggle your toes in a cascading motion so that the adjacent toes brush against one another. Repeat once.

One fun thing to do is to pretend that you’re dancing while you move about the house or office. Although you initially feel a little silly, you probably find it invigorating.

These are easy ways to squeeze a little more toning of your bones, joints and muscles into your busy schedule.

Beginning an exercise program:

Moving helps strengthen your bones, joints and muscles as well as improve flexibility for the elderly and rheumatoid arthritis patients.

It also boosts your mood, your energy and gives you some control over your arthritis so you can:

Walk in the woods with your kids and grandchildren, travel to Costa Rica or your favorite place to spot your 400th bird, or go shopping longer—whatever your pleasure.

And surprise your loved ones with your renewed vigor and grace.

The most important benefit to exercise is you’ll be able to say, “Yes, I can”.

You regain control of your schedule.

If you’re sedentary or out of shape, it’d be wise to consult with your healthcare practitioner about your exercises.

However, you can likely start with the 6 quick, painless exercises that boost your energy, strengthen your bones, joints and muscles, and increase flexibility in the elderly and rheumatoid patients.

In case you’re wondering, new habits such as exercising become a part of your daily routine after 3-4 weeks.

If you’d like to help me compare the effectiveness of different exercise programs for increasing flexibility for the elderly or rheumatoid arthritis patients, please fill out the convenient feedback form.

Looking forward to hearing about how you are strengthening your bones, joints and muscles, increasing your flexibility and grace.

Please note: the information on this website is a sharing of information and knowledge from the research and experience of Dr. Molnar-Kimber and her community. It is not intended to replace your one on one relationship with a qualified health care professional. It also is not intended to be medical advice. However, it is often observed that patients who take a major interest in their disease and learn as much as they can about their disease and potential treatments often improve faster than those who don’t. Dr. Molnar-Kimber encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your own research and discussions with your qualified health care professional.

2006 © Katherine L. Molnar-Kimber, Ph.D.