5 Dos and Don’ts When Training Clients with Arthritis

Have you ever had a client come to you for training and say ‘I would like to exercise but I have arthritis and don’t want to make it worse’? I think most fitness instructors and personal trainers will have experienced this at some point in their career and if not…you probably have this to come!

Physical Activity and Exercise is beneficial for people with Arthritis. This is the key message that you need to understand but most importantly that your client needs to understand. There are more than 100 types of arthritis which people can be diagnosed with and it will affect every client in a different way. You are not expected to know or understand every form of arthritis but as long as you adapt your training to the needs of your client, encourage safe technique and apply the knowledge you do have then you will be providing a positive experience for the individual and helping them to experience the benefits of exercise and physical activity.

Remember no two people are going to be the same.

We have put together 5 Dos and 5 Don’ts to help provide some guidance.

DO’S

1. DO perform a slow and extended warm up to allow time for the joints to mobilise and the synovial fluid to lubricate the joint more effectively.

2. DO focus on low impact activities to reduce the stress placed on the joint i.e. cycling, walking and swimming.

3. DO include strength training in to your training programme as studies have suggested it can decrease pain experienced by 43% (Tufts University). Be careful at the start of a programme for someone with rheumatoid arthritis.

4. DO focus on improving the range of movement and flexibility of a joint – just work within the clients pain barriers.

5. DO ensure that you have educated the client appropriately to understand the benefits of exercise for their condition. Build a rapport with the client so you get to know what they can do and what limitations they might have. Ensure they feel confident in your knowledge and the programme has been explained to them. Don’t forget the psychological impact that accompanies these physiological conditions.

DON’T

1. DON’T exercise during a ‘flare up’. At times, an individual may experience periods of intensified pain (particularly with rheumatoid arthritis) and this is when exercise is contraindicated. Build a rapport with your client to ensure this information is communicated effectively.

2. DON’T perform extreme flexibility and stretching exercise techniques i.e. PNF stretching.

3. DON’T perform exercises which require kneeling when the knee joints are affected.

4. DON’T perform exercises which require repetitive stress or high impact activity.

5. DON’T treat the individual like they are not capable of certain exercises. People of all ages can suffer with arthritis in the joints, therefore, adapting exercises accordingly and working within their limitations is the way to tailor your programming so it is safe, effective and fun!

These are some of the key considerations when planning an exercise programme. It is best practice as a fitness professional to have a detailed understanding of the conditions that your clients may disclose to you and in turn you will provide a higher level of service.

We have a variety of training available to help you diversify your knowledge in relation to arthritis and associated conditions. To learn more why not complete our Exercise Referral CPD Seminar: Arthritis and Exercise from the comfort of your own home. Click here to access the arthritis seminar.

Hope you have found this helpful?