Four Ways Your Trainers Can Help Ease Arthritis Sufferers’ Pain

James Bell is co-founder and Master Trainer of Alive! Whole Life Fitness. A year after an intense internship with a SuperSlow Master, James became a Certified SuperSlow instructor. With his education and ongoing work with clients, James developed SafeStrength—a slow-motion, high-intensity, low-impact strength training program now used exclusively for Alive!

An estimated 46 million people suffer from arthritis in the United States and a projected 67 million people being will be affected by 2030, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For Baby Boomers, this statistic hits close to home. Arthritis is projected to increase 40 percent within our nation’s aging population in the next two decades.

In the January issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, the CDC reported osteoarthritis—the most common form of arthritis—affects 27 million people, up from 1990 estimates of 21 million. Rheumatoid arthritis affects an estimated 3 million people.

However, there’s relief for arthritis sufferers. For those lucky enough to have avoided the disease, prevention is key. Here’s how fitness facilities can play a role:

1. Have a trainer on staff who understands clients’ medical conditions. For arthritis sufferers seeking pain relief, a trainer’s knowledge of the client’s disease is a critical component to designing a training program that is safe and successful.

Your fitness staff members’ first step should always be a thorough evaluation. Make sure they have all the medical history, complete with physician or caregiver contact information if necessary. The evaluation should be a two-way dialogue. A trainer should be able to possess a solid understanding of the client’s condition and answer any how-to questions when discussing a training program specific to the client’s needs. A wrong fit may result in injury and open the door to a potential legal battle.

2. Your fitness facility should offer a specific training program. Once you have the perfect fitness professional or trainer, the next step is offering the right training program. A pain-free workout is rarely found for arthritis patients. However, a specialized program—commonly slow-motion, high-intensity, low-impact strength training—offers arthritis sufferers a sure solution. During a slow-motion session, maximum effort is focused on specific muscle groups, resulting in a concentrated, low-impact workout where strength gain replaces joint pain.

According to recent reports, a high-intensity, slow-motion technique can produce strength gains of up to 50 percent more than traditional methods. Workouts consist of deliberate, slow and controlled upward and downward movements, using highly specialized equipment that offers users the ability to adjust their workout by incremental amounts—as little as half a pound. With this weight system, a trainer is able to control movement in small degrees, eliminating pain. Slow and controlled movements increase workout intensity and, more importantly, take away any momentum that may cause injury.

3. Get the right equipment. The slow-motion, high-intensity, low-impact strength training involves several pieces of equipment designed to produce safe and successful results from head to toe. Research tells us that concentrating only on a portion of the body results in muscular imbalance. Proper training addresses the whole body.

Although there are several specific pieces of equipment to consider, your fitness facility should have at least 10 pieces that will work with your slow-motion, high-intensity program. The cost may not be cheap. These 10 pieces, for example, can be as much as $60,000. Make sure you have the client base to offset your investment.

Specific to arthritis sufferers, the equipment should have special attachments that help users complete their workout by eliminating pressure on joints and other sensitive areas. These attachments, along with a weight system that controls range and speed of movement, is essential to safely increasing strength and successfully reducing pain.

4. The fitness professional is the beginning and end to a successful program. When working with arthritis sufferers, there’s more that applies to the training than usual. Understanding medical and physiological implications to specific disorders initiates your entire program. The training’s ongoing success lies in properly manipulating the program’s highly specialized equipment and the trainer’s expertise to create an individualized workout regimen. Trainers who are practiced in this type of training become skilled note takers who meticulously document results, as well as expert tweakers who constantly find opportunities to fine-tune clients’ workouts.

In addition, trainers should be able to coach users on proper breathing. In the case of slow-motion training and working with its target audience, the Lamaze method proves to be the best solution. This technique keeps blood pressure at healthy levels—an important consideration when dealing with an aging clientele. With the Baby Boomer generation getting older—and especially those suffering from arthritis—proper body alignment is essential for greater safety and program effectiveness. Once your clients have mastered the equipment and all the techniques associated with this particular program, the trainer then becomes a motivational coach who brings the client through the regimen, month after month.

These four steps give arthritis sufferers a greater opportunity to live happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives.
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