Before getting started
Exercising on a regular basis is vital, but so is understanding your arthritis and how it might affect you while exercising. It is important to be aware of a few things that can make a difference:
Don’t overdo it
During the first couple of weeks of a new routine, expect to feel a small increase in discomfort because muscles are probably being worked in a way they are not used to. It is usual to feel stiff when starting new exercises and is not a bad thing. However, if an exercise gives you a sharp pain, especially in the joint itself, stop doing it immediately. Before trying that particular exercise again, check with a doctor or physiotherapist.
Maintain good posture
This is vital for people with arthritis, as it puts less strain on the body. People with bad posture usually slouch. When this happens, the weight of the body falls forward, putting added strain on muscles and joints.
Exercising during a flare-up
Some people with certain forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, experience what is known as a flare-up – this is when inflammation is suddenly more active and pain, swelling and stiffness get worse. Flare-ups can last from a couple of days to a few weeks.
It is important to keep doing gentle exercises during a flare-up of arthritis, especially range of movement exercises (see the next page for details). However, cut down on the rest of the routine and cut out the more strenuous exercise. You can also do very gentle muscle-strengthening exercises.