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Man exercising in pool.

Do you have stiff, achy, painful joints? You're not alone.

An estimated 54 million adults are living with this chronic condition. It is called arthritis.

Arthritis steals movement. It sometimes keeps you from doing the things you love. But with a bit of effort, you can restore some movement and regain your ability to enjoy activities.

Regular exercise (physical activity) is one of the best ways to improve pain, stiffness, and range of motion, and combat common arthritis symptoms. It also can benefit your physical, mental, and social health. And it can even help you prevent or improve many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and some cancers.

Many people with arthritis think exercise will be painful — probably because they’ve tried, and it was. But we know through research that people with arthritis can exercise without worsening their pain. Plus, regular physical activity can decrease arthritis pain and improve walking activities. The trick is doing the right amount and progression of exercise, in the right way, at the right time.

It isn’t easy. Arthritis is a complicated condition. Once arthritis moves into a joint, the muscles surrounding the joint become weakened. This leads to a ripple effect of joint pain and muscle weakness.

If you've tried to exercise and stopped because of pain, consider seeing a physical therapist. They can work with you to develop a safe and effective strengthening and conditioning program to help reduce your pain, not add to it. In the process, you also can improve your mobility and function. The bottom line: Exercise done properly shouldn't hurt if you have arthritis.

People with arthritis need to increase their exercise routines more gradually than those without it. A physical therapist will partner with you to develop a program for your specific ability and goals. Walking, cycling, and swimming are great forms of cardiovascular exercise. Strength training and stretching are equally important. A physical therapist can teach you how to exercise with the correct form and posture. They also will help you exercise for the right amount of time and intensity.

If you have questions about how physical activity can help address your arthritis symptoms, a physical therapist can help.

Physical therapists are movement experts. They improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation. To find a physical therapist in your area, visit Find a PT.

Find a PT Near You


Consider a community-based physical activity program. Research has shown that they are effective for people with arthritis.

Learn more about ways that physical therapists can help by exploring the arthritis health center.

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