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Exercise and arthritis

A UK 110Exercise can be the last thing you want to do when in pain from your arthritis. However, exercising is one of the best ways of keeping pain at bay. Our Exercise and Arthritis booklet contains more information. The other benefits of exercise include:

  • a better range of movement and joint mobility
  • increased muscle strength
  • less stiffness
  • increased energy
  • keeping your heart healthy

Can exercise make my arthritis worse?

The right kind of exercise will not make your arthritis any worse. In fact, exercising helps you lose weight, which means less strain on your joints. It is important not to overstrain yourself while you are exercising, and to gently stretch before and after exercise. You can still exercise during a flare up although your workouts should be gentle.

Your doctor or a physiotherapist can help you to pick an exercise programme to suit you. A physiotherapist will advise you on the best exercises after assessing your joints and muscles.

It is usual to feel some pain as your muscles get used to being exercised. Seek advice from your doctor if you feel pain in the joint itself or if the pain continues for more than two hours after finishing exercising as this might be a sign you have overdone it.

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Types of exercise

A good exercise programme will incorporate three types of exercise: range of movement, strengthening and aerobic exercises.

  • Stretching exercises (sometimes known as range of movement exercises) help maintain flexibility, strength and good posture
  • Strengthening exercises help strengthen the muscles which support your joints
  • Aerobic exercises are ones that raise your heart rate and strengthen your heart. This allows your muscles to work more efficiently

People with arthritis seem to benefit from the following types of aerobic exercise:

  • walking
  • cycling
  • swimming
  • dancing
  • yoga
  • Pilates
  • tai chi

Jogging probably is not the best way to exercise if you have joint pains.

How else can I keep active with arthritis?

Keeping active does not mean you have to spend hours at the gym. There are many simple ways of incorporating exercise into your daily lifestyle.

  • Walk when you can – to work, to the shops etc.
  • Vacuuming or mopping the floor is a good aerobic exercise
  • Doing the washing up can help loosen finger joints
  • Gardening can work out the whole body
  • Join one of Arthritis Care's 'Get Active' events. See what's going on near you using our events and activities finder.

How often and how much exercise?

Little and often is a good approach. How much can depend on your joint pain. If you are not already exercising try doing 5-10 minutes twice a day and then gradually build up.