Gentle Moves for Rest Days

Learn why it’s important to try these 8 low-impact exercises to keep your joints flexible between workout days.

By Mary Anne Dunkin

Rest days are important to any workout routine – they allow the body to recuperate. But the antidote to doing too much is not doing nothing, cautions Mark P. Cote, DPT, director of outcomes, research, and quality for the University of Connecticut Musculoskeletal Institute in Farmington. "Doing nothing, regardless of what type of arthritis you have, is going to make your arthritis worse," says Cote.

On rest days, he recommends gentle exercises that increase flexibility for arthritic joints. If you usually walk two miles, you might walk just to the corner and back, or try walking in the pool to take advantage of the water's buoyancy.

Low-Impact Exercises for Rest Days 
Try these low-impact exercises to keep joints flexible between workout days.

Look straight ahead. Then, tilt head gently sideways toward your shoulder. Hold 3 seconds and repeat to other side.

Stand at the bottom of the stairs with your hand on the banister and slide your hand up and down the banister. Move to other side of the stairs and repeat with the other arm.

Hold arms at sides, palms forward and elbows straight. Raise arms out to sides and up as if clapping hands above your head. Lower arms slowly and repeat. 

Sit or stand with your arms at your sides and palms up. Bend elbows, bringing palms toward shoulders. Straighten arms and return to sides.

Place open hands palm down on a table or flat surface. Slowly bend each joint and make a loose fist. Hold for 3 seconds, straighten fingers and open hand again.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping your foot flat on the floor, slide one heel back toward your bottom. Hold for 3 seconds and slide leg back to starting position. Repeat with other leg.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and heels touching the floor. Place your hand under one thigh and pull that leg toward your body so your toes are pointed toward the ceiling and hold for 3 seconds. Repeat with other leg.

Sitting on a chair or couch, dangle your leg and do 30 clockwise circles with your foot. Reverse direction and do 30 counter clockwise circles. Repeat with other foot.

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