Exercising With Arthritis

Exercise is beneficial for each one of us. It is more important for individuals with arthritis. Exercise can actually help in easing the arthritis pain and stiffness. However, you do not have to run a marathon or go for very hard intensity workouts to help reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Even some moderate exercise can help you get some relief and also assist you in maintaining a healthy body weight. Let us read more about exercising with arthritis, where we will talk about the why exercise is important for those with arthritis, what are some of the best exercises for arthritis and also know about some tips to exercise with arthritis.

Exercising With Arthritis

Exercising With Arthritis:

Why Is Exercise Important For People With Arthritis?

Y might be thinking that exercise may aggravate your joint pain in case you have arthritis. However, that is not at all the case. Lack of exercise can actually make the joints more stiff and painful. This is because keeping the muscles as well as the surrounding tissue quite strong is very much important for maintaining right support for your bones. And lack of exercise actually weaken those supporting muscles and thus create more stress on the affected joints.

Exercise can assist you in improving your overall health and fitness without even hurting the affected joints in case you have arthritis. Below are some reasons why exercise is important for people with arthritis:

  • Exercise improves the flexibility as well as strength, and helps to combat fatigue.
  • It strengthens the muscle around the affected joints.
  • Exercise helps you in maintaining bone strength.
  • It provides you more energy all throughout the day.
  • Exercise helps in controlling your body weight.
  • It enhances the quality of your life.
  • Exercising make it easier for you to get a nice night sleep.
  • Your balance is improved with exercise.

NOTE: Though it is good for you to exercise with arthritis, you first need to consult with your doctor about the appropriate fitness exercises that you can do with your condition and also know about the precautions that you need to maintain while performing the exercises with arthritis.

Levels Of Exercises For Arthritis That Are Safe And Effective:

There are three primary levels of exercise for people with arthritis; and the three levels are Therapeutic or Rehabilitative exercise, Recreational or Leisure exercises, and the Competitive or Elite exercises. Let us know more about these three levels of exercises for arthritis that are actually safe and effective.

Therapeutic or Rehabilitative Level of Exercise:

Therapeutic or rehabilitative exercises that are prescribed by doctors or health professionals; are known to address specific body parts or joints that are affected by the arthritis or that are affected by arthritis-related surgery. A therapeutic level of exercise is very important and it is the first step for anyone who remained inactive for long, or those who have restricted their joint motion or their muscle strength, or those who are experiencing pain in their joint and individuals who are recovering from arthritis-related surgery, such as a joint replacement.

Recreational Or Leisure Level Of Exercise:

Recreational or leisure exercises or physical activities can be anything from swimming and walking to skiing and running. Appropriate forms of these exercises are those that can be done in a safe and well controlled manner, have a very little risk of causing injury, and that place very little stress or loads on the joints that are affected with arthritis.

Competitive Or Elite Level Of Exercise:

The third level of exercise for patients with arthritis is the Competitive or the elite level of exercises. These are the activities or the exercises that are performed at higher intensities, and for a longer time durations, and also require proper training and greater skill. Though there are very limited reports of people having arthritis returning to a competitive or elite level of exercise; however, exercising at this level is really not recommended for those with inflammatory arthritis or those having joint problems that might get adversely affected by the sporting activity. In case you have mild arthritis and want to continue exercise at this competitive level, first you need to consult with your rheumatologist or a specialized physical therapist having experience in arthritis.

Some Exercises for Arthritis:

Below are some of the exercises for arthritis that you can perform to get fit and healthy if you have arthritis. You must however, talk to your doctor before adopting any new exercise in your fitness routine. Most of these exercises include the strengthening exercise, range-of-motion exercise, aerobic exercises and some other activities. Let us take a look on some of these exercises for arthritis.

Aerobic Exercises:

Aerobic exercises or the endurance exercises help you in attaining overall fitness. These exercises help in improving your heart health, help you in controlling the body weight and also offer you more and more stamina and energy.

Walking, swimming, bicycling and using an elliptical machine; are some of the examples of low-impact aerobic moves that are easier for your joints. You must try to workout at least for 150 minutes if you do moderately intense aerobic exercise, every week.

If you are performing moderate intensity aerobic exercise, then you can do it for most of the days of the week or even for two days in a week.

Flexibility Exercises: (Range-Of-Motion Exercise And Stretching Exercises)

Flexibility exercises include the ROM or the range-of-motion exercise and also the stretching exercises. These exercises enhance your body flexibility and also flexibility of the affected joints as well as the flexibility of surrounding muscles. This helps in improving your posture and also reduces the risk of injuries while exercising.

Usually the range-of-motion exercises are performed 5-10 times regularly. Doing this helps to thing the fluid as well as gets the joints moving. Range of motion exercises include movements like raising the arms over the head or rolling the shoulders forward as well as backward. Stretching exercises must be done at least 3-5 days per week.

Yoga and Tai Chi are some of the recreational activities that can be done.

Strengthening Exercises:

Strengthening exercises can greatly help you in building strong muscles that assist you in supporting and protecting your joints. Weight training is one kind of strengthening exercise that can actually help you in maintaining as well as in increasing the muscle strength. You must strictly note, not to exercise the same muscle groups for two days in a row and must take one day rest in between your workouts.

Keep it noted that while starting a strength-training program, a 3 days per week program can really help you.

Body Awareness Exercises:

A group of body awareness exercises, such as those that help in improving posture, joint position sense, balance, coordination as well as relaxation, can be beneficial for people with arthritis. Tai chi and yoga are some of the examples of body awareness exercises.

Some Other Physical Activities:

Any movement of the joints can help with arthritis. Some regular physical activities, such as mowing the lawn or walking the dog count.

Be very much sure that you consult with your doctor or fitness instructor about your condition and avoid the positions and movements that can really cause more pain and stiffness in the affected joints.

Tips To Get Started With The Exercises for Arthritis:

It is very much true that beginning a regular exercise program could be really challenging, especially if you have arthritis. However, understanding your limitation and knowing the appropriate exercises for your condition with the help and support of your rheumatologist or physical therapist, could really help. You must know about some of the tips to get started with the exercises if you have arthritis. Below we have mentioned some of them for you.

  • Make an exercise plan that includes how often, and for how long you must be doing the exercise.
  • Set short term goals at first and then go for the long-term goals. Make sure you are setting quite realistic goals and also rewarding yourself once you have achieved your goals.
  • It is good to exercise with a partner or a friend.
  • Make sure you keep an exercise log and note your progress.
  • Always choose those workouts or activities that are quite convenient for you.

Tips To Protect Your Arthritic Joints While Exercising:

Below are some other tips that you must know as you get started with exercising if you have arthritis. You must follow the below mentioned tips to protect your joints while exercising with arthritis.

Perform Low Impact Exercises:

You must go for low impact exercises such as stationary bicycles, elliptical trainers or, exercises in water, all of which help in keeping the stress on your affected joints very low while you move.

Apply Heat:

Heat offers enough of relaxation to your muscles and joints and also helps in relieving pain. Heat treatments such as hot packs, warm towels, or a hot shower, should be applied at least for 20 minutes. Make sure that it is not too hot to be painful on your joints.

Start Slowly:

It is essential for you to begin exercising slowly and go for easy movements. In case you experience pain while exercising, do take a break. You need to note that any sharp or severe pain that is stronger than your usual joint pain could indicate a serious problem and thus you must see your doctor immediately. You must also stop exercising in case you notice any redness or swelling in the joints.

Move Gently:

You must make sure that you are moving the affected joints quite gently at first so as to warm up. You can start with range-of-motion exercise for at least 5-10 minutes before you switch on to aerobic or strengthening exercises.

Apply Ice:

Applying ice or cold therapy on your affected joints for about 20 minutes could be beneficial after the exercise that might have caused swelling in your joints.


So we are clear that exercise can actually be beneficial for people with arthritis. However, you need to consult with your health professional or a physical therapist and know about the appropriate exercise program for you. You can build an active and healthy lifestyle even with arthritis, with the support of your therapist. There are some hospitals, and clinics that provide appropriate therapeutic exercise programs for patients, especially those with arthritis. You must check with you local hospitals about the same.

NOTE: You must strictly note not to overdo and immediately stop exercising in case you experience any pain while exercising. If you experience severe and continuous pain with exercise you must consult with your doctor if the pain is normal or is something serious.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 11, 2019

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