Answers to Your Questions About Arthritis and Exercise
If you have arthritis, you may think you shouldn’t exercise because it could make
your condition worse. But health experts say you can improve your health and fitness
through exercise, without damaging your joints. Just be sure to talk with your healthcare
provider before starting an exercise program.
Q. Why is exercise good if you have arthritis?
A. Exercise can help you keep your joints moving and keep the muscles around your joints
strong. It can also keep your bone and cartilage tissue strong and healthy, and improve
your ability to do daily activities. Along with medicine and rest, regular exercise
of your joints—when they aren't swollen—can help keep them in working order. This
lets you continue your daily activities. It also may help prevent more joint damage.
Q. What happens if I don’t exercise?
A. If you don’t exercise, your joints can become even more stiff and painful. If you
have arthritis, it’s important to keep your muscles as strong as possible. The stronger
the muscles and tissue around your joints, the better they’ll be able to support and
protect your joints. This includes even those weak and damaged from arthritis. If
you don’t exercise, your muscles become smaller and weaker. Your bones become more
brittle and likely to fracture. Exercise helps keep your joints as flexible as possible.
This allows you to continue your daily tasks by yourself as much as possible.
Q. What exercises should I do?
A. The program that’s best for you depends on the type of arthritis you have. It also
depends on which joints are affected, and how severe your arthritis is. Your healthcare
provider, physical therapist, or rehabilitation specialist can help decide the best
exercise program for you. Talk with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise
program. People with arthritis often benefit from range-of-motion, strengthening,
and endurance exercises:
Range-of-motion exercises. These reduce stiffness and help keep your joints flexible. Controlled stretching
promotes a normal range of motion. This is the amount your joints can be moved in
Strengthening exercises. These help maintain or increase muscle strength.
Endurance exercises. These exercises strengthen your heart. They give you more energy so you can exercise
or be physically active longer without tiring as quickly. Walking, exercising in water,
and riding a stationary bike are some of the best exercises for people with arthritis.
Note: If you haven’t been exercising regularly or you have pain, stiffness, or weakness
that interrupts your daily activities, get your healthcare provider’s approval. Then
start your exercise program with range-of-motion and strengthening exercises only.