Jillian Michaels on Working Out With Osteoarthritis

The Biggest Loser trainer explains why half the battle of getting up and moving—even with joint pain—is getting in the right frame of mind.

Linda Childers
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Her easy tips for building your own confidence:

  • Shrink your target. Despite her take-no-prisoners persona on TV, Jillian recognizes that in real life, the key is to succeed at small goals that will spur you to set more. For example, start by walking one time around your house every day. After a week, walk to the end of your street. When that feels comfortable, start tackling whole blocks.
  • Let H2O do the work. “Water workouts are a great way to exercise without straining your joints,” says Jillian. The water’s buoyancy makes you feel lighter. “Plus, water provides resistance to help build muscle strength.” You don’t have to sign up for an aquasize class, either. Try hanging onto the side of the pool and kicking your legs, or standing in the shallow end and pushing your arms against the resistance.

“I’m too old”
This one doesn’t fly with Jillian either. “One of my personal training clients was a 90-year-old man with spinal stenosis who had never worked out before,” she notes. (Spinal stenosis causes a painful narrowing of the spinal column.) “People with arthritis who exercise regularly find their daily activities feel easier and their balance gets better.” Need proof? A Tufts University study of arthritis patients over 55 found that after four months of supervised strength training, joint pain decreased by an impressive 43%.

Some pointers:

  • Build muscle—but consult an expert first. Jillian’s client was wise enough to realize that he needed muscle strength to feel steady on his feet and a keen eye to make sure he was working out safely. Your best bet: Ask your doctor to recommend a physical therapist or other professional who can help you design a strength-training routine.
  • Embrace your AARP status! All types of exercise classes—from weight training to yoga—are geared toward the 50+ crowd; look for them at your town’s community center or the YMCA. Another tip: Call your health plan and ask if you’re eligible for a free gym membership or fitness classes. (Many plans offer special benefits to seniors.)

“I’m too busy”
Who has time to hit the gym for an hour? Not Jillian, who juggles TV appearances in between her entrepreneurial ventures, including her K-Swiss line of workout clothes and weight-loss empire. Not to mention a little thing called motherhood: Jillian became a mom twice in May when she and her partner, Heidi, adopted a 2-year-old girl from Haiti and Heidi gave birth to a son.

Her suggestions:

  • Find a slot in your schedule. “I’ve always told my clients to put themselves first, but I’ve found that’s challenging to do when you’re a new parent,” laughs Jillian. “I’ve started scheduling my exercise around my kids’ naps. When they’re sleeping, I’ll grab a quick half hour of exercise and work out at home with an exercise video or cardio equipment.”
September 2012