Should people with arthritis exercise? — Yes. People with arthritis should exercise. In the long run, regular exercise can help reduce the pain of arthritis, even though exercising might be painful at first.
What should I do before starting an exercise program? — Before starting an exercise program, talk with your doctor or nurse. Ask him or her if there are any exercises or sports you should or should not do. You can also ask him or her if you should see a physical therapist (exercise expert) before you start to exercise.
What kind of exercise program should I do? — That’s up to you. But the exercise program you choose should work in 2 ways. It should:
- Make your muscles stronger – Doing this can reduce pain and help to protect your joints and make them stronger. One way to make muscles stronger is to use weights or weight machines.
- Increase your heart rate and breathing – Doing this can improve your heart health and lower your blood pressure. Doctors recommend that you increase your heart rate with low-impact activities, such as walking, biking, or swimming. Low-impact activities are easier on your joints than high-impact activities. Doctors do not usually recommend high-impact activities, such as running, for people with arthritis.
How much should I exercise? — You should try to exercise about 30 to 40 minutes a day, on most days of the week. If you can’t exercise for 30 to 40 minutes at a time, break your exercise up into shorter sessions.
How can I exercise safely if I have arthritis? — If you have arthritis, you can exercise safely by following these tips:
- Start slowly and increase your exercise program slowly
- Take 10 to 15 minutes to warm up before exercising – To warm up, you can walk slowly, march in place, or stretch your muscles.
- Start with lighter weights and slowly increase them (if you use weights)
- Make sure to cool down for about 5 minutes after exercising – To cool down, you can walk slowly or stretch your muscles.
- Protect your joints when you exercise by:
- Walking on a flat surface, if you have hip, knee, foot, or ankle problems
- Wearing shoes that support and cushion your feet
- Paying attention to pain – If you have pain, stop or change what you are doing.
- Avoiding movements that twist your joints
- Wearing a knee brace or other support, if your doctor or nurse recommends it
What exercises can help with different kinds of arthritis? — Certain exercises can help with different kinds of arthritis and different symptoms.
For osteoarthritis and most other types of arthritis, it’s important to move your joints every day, even if they hurt. For example, you should try to bend and straighten your knees a few times a day, even if you have arthritis pain in your knees.
What if I have pain when I exercise? — If you have pain when you exercise, talk with your doctor or nurse about what you can do. When you first start to exercise, some aching or soreness is normal. If your pain is severe or lasts more than 2 hours after exercising, you might need to change your exercise program or the way you do your exercises.