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Exercise for Arthritis

Exercise for Arthitis

Key Summary

Some exercises can strengthen the muscles around your joints, help maintain bone strength, and ease joint pain. Here we explore the best exercises for arthritis, and which activities to avoid.

Arthritis doesn’t discriminate. It is a type of joint inflammation that affects 1 in 4 adults and nearly 60 million people in the U.S. There is no doubt you know someone or a number of people who experience symptoms of arthritis—or you’re personally dealing with it. There are actually more than 100 types of arthritis and arthritis-related conditions, with the most common symptoms including swelling, pain, decreased range of motion, and joint stiffness.

There are many different approaches to coping with arthritis, but virtually every expert across the board agrees on one component: exercise helps. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the importance and benefits of exercise as an arthritis treatment, providing you with a comprehensive list of activities that can assist you with pain in your hands, knees, hips, fingers, and feet. We will also review certain exercises you should avoid and how to use exercise as a means to feel better, every day.

What are the Benefits of Exercise as an Arthritis Treatment?

If you engage in the correct types of exercise, it will strengthen the muscles around your joints, help you maintain bone strength, ease joint pain and stiffness, give you more energy, improve your balance and thus lessen the risk of falls, and even make it easier to get a restful night’s sleep.

Exercise can be completed in many forms, from traditional “workouts” to daily activities. When undertaking any kind of new personal fitness plan, it is strongly advised to consult with your doctor to discuss which types of exercises are best for your particular situation, and whether or not it would be a good idea to get a physical therapist involved.

The Best Exercises for Those With Arthritis

Whether you enjoy the sense of community, companionship, and encouragement that comes from formal classes and group sessions, or if you’re the type who prefers to exercise alone, there are a myriad of exercises that will help you or your loved one cope with arthritis.

We’ve broken some of the most popular exercises down by category:

Exercise for Arthritis in Hips

Water Walking and Water Aerobics

Few activities are as soothing and relaxing as walking in waist-deep water. According to experts, walking in water lessens pressure on the joints by 50% compared to walking on land. (A note of caution: because it instantly feels so good to water-walk, you should be careful not to overdo it.)

Another fun activity that has become increasingly popular over the last few decades is water aerobics, usually with an instructor conducting class. You stand in chest-deep water and do a number of simple and effective exercises.

Both of these water exercises have a low level of impact on sore joints like hips.

Exercise for Arthritis in Knees

Traditional Aerobics

Aerobics includes everything from walking to swimming and using elliptical machines that alleviate stress on your joints. Even professional athletes who have endured years of pounding on the basketball court or playing field often turn to elliptical machines to work out without putting undue stress on their joints.

The great thing about these activities is that you don’t have to engage in any of them for an extended period of time. Just 10 or 15 minutes a day can make a difference—but even two or three times a week is better than doing nothing.

Exercise for Arthritis in Feet, Arms, and Fingers

Range-of-Motion Exercises

This is something you can do for just a minute or two, a few times a day. Raise your arms over your head, if possible, roll your shoulders forward and backward, curl your toes, spread your toes apart, wiggle your fingers, and gently roll your wrists.

Other Great Exercises for Arthritis

Bocce Ball and Shuffleboard

For those who enjoy group endeavors and friendly competition, low-impact games such as bocce ball and shuffleboard are fun ways to stay active. Just be sure not to bend knees or extend arms beyond your comfort zone, and be aware of any aggravating feelings to the joints in your hands, wrist, elbows and shoulders.


If you can still swing a club without aggravating your joints, golf is a great workout for your upper body. If you can get by without using a cart some of the time, it’s great for joint-healthy walking as well.

Treadmill Walking

This is one of the safest, most effective and “user-friendly” types of exercise. The treadmill is more forgiving than sidewalks, you can hold the handlebars for support, and you can adjust the pace and gradient of your walk to suit your needs. (Especially when you’re first starting out, it’s recommended that you don’t increase the incline, as it can put stress on joints.)


Cycling is great for the lower body, but it’s a good idea to wear padded gloves to avoid shock. Make sure you’ve adjusted the height of the seat so you don’t get that “hunched over” feeling and to prevent stress on your shoulders and arms.


If you’re feeling strong and flexible enough to try Pilates, it’s great exercise for the spine and for your entire body. To find out if Pilates is for you, schedule a personal session with a certified teacher—someone with a proven track record, or who has trained someone you know.

Exercise is a great way to positively impact your overall health, but there are also many others. Find out more in our next article “Powerful Ways for Seniors to Improve Heart Health.

Osteoarthritis Exercises to Avoid

It’s best to stay away from activities that can actually increase joint inflammation and pain by stressing the joints. You want to avoid high-impact activities such as:

  • Running at a fast pace.
  • Jumping.
  • Hiking.
  • Stair climbing.
  • Deep squatting.
  • Any sport that requires repetitive and prolonged movement, including tennis, lifting heavy weights, and push-ups/pull-ups.

Even certain routine activities such as standing for prolonged periods of time, painting or doing strenuous yardwork should be avoided. Your body will be the first to tell you when you’re overdoing it, but as a general rule, avoid the aforementioned exercises.

Find Senior Care Near You 

As a valued member of a senior living community, you or your loved one can enjoy activities and exercises that are fun and create lasting memories, all while helping their arthritis. Start the discussion with our Referah Family Connection Agents today and find the perfect community setting to enjoy life to the fullest.


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