Gout can be painful and disruptive to your daily routines, like exercise, everyday tasks, and even just moving around.
However, it’s still important to stay fit to prevent the affected joints from becoming more stiff and painful.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled our top tips for exercising with gout safely. Exercise can help manage the condition, so it’s best to try and incorporate some of it into your everyday life.
What Is Gout?
Although gout is caused by excess uric acid in your bloodstream, it is actually a painful form of inflammatory arthritis.
It most commonly affects the big toe joint, but it can also affect other joints in the foot, knees, wrists, and fingers. The excess uric acid causes sharp crystals to form around your joint, leading to inflammation and pain that can range from mild to severe.
A gout attack can come on suddenly, affecting one joint at a time. The pain will often wake you up at night, as the joint is usually very tender and swollen.
Even a light breeze on the affected toe can be unbearably painful, and the symptoms are at their worst within the first 12 to 24 hours of the gout attack.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for gout and you’re not able to predict when a gout attack will happen. The best course of action is to treat and manage the condition after it occurs.
The gout attacks may become more frequent if left untreated and may last longer. Repeated bouts of gout can lead to joint damage and deformity.
Why Exercise When You Have Gout?
It may seem counterintuitive to exercise when you have gout, considering it hurts to move the joint. But research has shown that it can help alleviate the symptoms.
Exercise will help keep the joint flexible, improve your range of motion, alleviate gout-related pain, and shed excess weight.
Maintaining a healthy weight will reduce the excessive weight-bearing force on your joints, but it will help lower uric acid levels.
Research has also shown that both visceral fat and adipose tissue can produce and carry more uric acid than muscle.
By losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight, you can significantly reduce your risk of gout attacks due to the lower uric acid levels.
Exercise will also help you manage stress levels, which will lower your blood pressure and improve your cardiovascular health.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t exercise while you’re having a gout attack and that you should wait until the pain and inflammation have subsided.
With that being said, you should take it easy and pay attention to how your body feels, as gout can last for up to two weeks.
Before exercising, make sure that you don’t have any pain and the inflammation has subsided.
Tips to Exercise With Gout
When you start to exercise after a gout attack, you should increase your workout intensity gradually.
To help keep you moving, improve your flexibility, and maintain your overall health, you can incorporate these gout-friendly tips:
1. Choose the Right Footwear
It’s important to wear the right shoes for gout that will provide adequate support for your feet, as gout affects the big toe joint and can affect your ankle and midfoot.
Wear shoes with a wide, spacious toe box, as this will reduce the risk of the shoe creating pressure points on the forefoot, and your toes will be able to splay naturally. The toe box will also be able to accommodate a swollen toe without aggravating it further.
The upper of the shoe should be seamless and made from soft, stretchy material so that it moves with your foot without irritating the skin.
To reduce the load placed on your foot when walking, look for shoes with guidance technology or a rocker-sole design. This will allow your foot to “roll” from heel-to-toe easily, without placing your foot under stress.
Make sure that the shoes provide adequate arch support, as this will help distribute your body weight evenly.
The midsole cushioning should be slightly firm, as this will prevent excessive movement of the affected joint and absorb shock while keeping you comfortable.
2. Walk at a Comfortable Pace
As you walk, you want to make sure that you do it slowly, as this will help create the least amount of stress and pressure on your foot.
If you have no pain or discomfort, you can look at gradually increasing your pace, making sure that you can walk pain-free.
You can also begin to increase the distance and time of your walk, which will also help elevate your heart rate. But make sure you have no pain as you increase your intensity.
3. Range of Motion Exercises for Feet
Range of motion exercises on the feet can help you to improve your joint flexibility and prevent stiffness.
You may want to try shorter durations and gentle exercises to begin. As your active range of motion improves, you can increase exercise length and intensity.
If you feel any new joint pain or achiness, then stop immediately.
The following exercises can help improve your active range of motion:
- Toe Salutes
- Towel Curls
- Splaying your toes
- Ankle Alphabet
- Toe Press, Point, and Curl
When you do the exercises, aim for 2 sets of 10 repetitions on each foot.
4. Low-Impact Cardio
If you’re recovering from a gout attack, you’ll find that including low-impact, non-weight-bearing exercises will be helpful.
Exercise will help lower uric acid levels and prevent future gout attacks. You can choose to either swim or ride a stationary bike, and you won’t be placing any pressure on your joints. This helps you elevate your heart rate while you remain pain-free.
Start by doing 10 minutes of exercise a day and gradually increase the duration by a few minutes each day, until you can comfortably do 30 to 45 minutes a day.
Mix your exercise routine up to include different low-impact exercises, as this will help correct any muscle imbalances and keep you motivated.
5. Stretch Affected Joint
Once your gout flare has started to subside, you can help keep your joints flexible by including stretching exercises into your daily routine.
Start by gently massaging your foot using a golf or lacrosse ball and roll it under the arch of your foot. This will help warm up the ligaments and muscles and get the joints moving with ease through a range of motion.
Don’t push yourself too hard, as you want to ease your joints into stretching until they regain flexibility.
You can include the following toe stretches into your daily routine:
- Big Toe Extension Stretch
- Toe Squeezing
- Toe Pulls
Try to hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, with 8 to 10 repetitions for each exercise on each foot.
6. Build Muscle With Strength Exercises
Your muscles play a vital role in supporting and stabilizing your joints as you go about your daily activities.
Strong muscles help to protect the joints by absorbing impact forces, which reduces excessive wear and tear on the joints.
If your muscles are weak or if you have muscle imbalances, this can leave your joints open to taking a pounding while they support your entire body weight.
By including strength training in your exercise routine, you’ll build muscle, which will also help to keep the surrounding ligaments strong.
You don’t need to have access to weights or a gym, as you can use resistance bands and your body weight to make the workout more challenging.