Exercise for Arthritis: What You Should Know
Do you have stiff, achy, painful joints? You're not alone.
An estimated 54 million adults are living with this chronic condition: arthritis.
Arthritis steals movement and sometimes the things you love to do, but you can get it back.
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion, which are common symptoms of arthritis. In addition, regular physical activity can benefit your physical, mental, and social health, and 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.
Indeed, exercise decreases arthritis pain and improves walking activities. The trick is doing the right exercises, in the right way, at the right time.
It isn’t easy. Arthritis is a complicated condition. Once arthritis moves into the joint, muscles surrounding the joint become weakened. This leads to a ripple effect of joint pain and muscle weakness because all of your body’s muscles and joints are connected.
If you’ve tried to exercise and stopped because of pain, consider working with a physical therapist who can work with you to develop a customized, safe, and effective strengthening and conditioning program that helps reduces your pain, not add to it, and improves your mobility and function. That’s right—exercise shouldn’t hurt if you have arthritis.
Generally, people with arthritis need to increase their exercise routines more gradually than someone without it. A physical therapist will partner with you to develop a program tailored specifically to your level of function and your goals. Walking, cycling, and swimming are great forms of cardiovascular exercise, but strength training and stretching are equally important. The trick is to perform these exercises with the right form and posture and for the right duration (time) and intensity (repetition).
If you have questions about how exercise can help address your arthritis symptoms, a physical therapist can help.
Physical therapists are movement experts who improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation. To locate a physical therapist in your area, visit Find a PT.
Find a PT near you!
Also consider finding a community-based physical activity program, which research has shown to be effective for people with arthritis.
Learn more about ways that physical therapists can help by exploring the arthritis health center.