Relieve Arthritis with Exercise
Build Strength, Increase Flexibility, and Feel Better
Many people who have arthritis don’t want to exercise. They think it will make their joint pain worse. In fact, the opposite is true. Regular exercise can ease arthritis pain and improve other symptoms. Exercise is also good for the rest of the body—especially the heart and brain—and can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
According to the American College of Rheumatology, people with arthritis who exercise regularly have less pain, more energy, and better sleep.
Four types of exercise can help to reduce pain and help your joints move and work better. These exercises can also improve balance and coordination, and help with controlling weight.
- Flexibility exercises: These decrease the risk of injury and can improve posture. They help joints and surrounding muscles move easily. Range-of-motion and stretching exercises, including yoga and Pilates, are examples.
- Strengthening exercises: Stronger muscles do a better job of supporting joints. There is less pressure on your joints and that can mean less pain. Exercises that use resistance to work muscles build strength. Gravity can provide resistance (as with push-ups or lifting weights) so these are sometimes called “weight-bearing” exercises. Water can also provide resistance.
- Aerobic exercises: These exercises make your heart, lungs, and muscles stronger. Aerobics can also help improve mood and quality of sleep and control weight. Aerobic exercises include walking, dancing, swimming, bicycling, or exercising on equipment such as stationary bikes, treadmills, and elliptical trainers. Any activity, such as walking the dog or even vacuuming, can be intensified into an aerobic one.
- Body awareness exercises: This last form of exercise works to improve posture, balance, coordination, and relaxation. Tai chi and yoga are examples of exercises that incorporate elements of body awareness.
The right exercise routine for you will depend on how old you are, how active you are, and how bad your arthritis is. Be sure to talk with your doctor to find out how to exercise safely.