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Exercise safely with arthritis. Find out how

Reviewed 1/2/2024

Exercising with arthritis

From the warm-up to the cooldown, we've got 8 tips for exercising safely with arthritis.

When you have arthritis, moving can be painful. And that pain might leave you thinking that the less you move, the better.

That's not the case though. Exercise is actually good for arthritis. Staying active can help you:

  • Decrease joint pain and stiffness.
  • Increase flexibility, muscle strength and endurance.
  • Improve your mood and quality of life.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

Of course, you want to exercise safely. Here are 8 ways to do that.

1. GET EXPERT ADVICE. Before you get started, talk with your doctor or physical therapist about how to plan a safe and well-rounded exercise program. They can help you choose the right activities and teach you how to exercise safely. A certified personal trainer who has experience working with others who have arthritis may also be able to help.

2. WARM UP. Warming up loosens your muscles by raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow. This can help you avoid injury and keep your joints from being as stiff later on. Warming up can be as simple as marching in place for about five minutes.

3. STRETCH. Stretching helps you stay flexible and gives muscles a full range of motion, which can really help when you have stiff joints. Stretching is a great form of activity on its own. It's also a good way to get ready for an aerobic activity and cool down after exercising.

4. PACE YOURSELF. When you have arthritis, your body may take six to eight weeks to adjust to a new level of activity. So, whether you're just starting to exercise or adding to your existing routine, go slow. Add a little bit of activity at a time, and let your body get used to the increase in activity before adding more.

5. CHOOSE JOINT-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES. Joint-friendly activities have a low risk of injury and don't twist or pound the joints. Examples include things like walking, bicycling, water aerobics, swimming or dancing.

6. MODIFY ACTIVITIES AS NEEDED. Changing the way you do an activity or adjusting the equipment you use may help you exercise more comfortably. For example, you might:

  • Choose exercises you can do sitting down.
  • Wrap the handles of dumbbells and other equipment with foam tape so they're easier to grip.
  • Deflate your exercise ball slightly to make it more stable to lie on.

7. USE GOOD FORM. Using the wrong form can cause injury and stress your joints. For example, leaning on the armrests of a treadmill or stair climber can increase joint pain.

If you're not sure of the proper form for a particular exercise, ask a fitness expert for advice.

8. RESPECT PAIN. Pain is trying to tell you something. Don't just push through it. It's fine to have a little bit of soreness after a good workout. But if your joints are hot or swollen, it might be time to try a different type of exercise that puts less pressure on your joints. Talk to your healthcare team for advice.

Walk out your door

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