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Improve Arthritis with Exercise

Leslie Juarez, HC
September 1, 2023
September 1, 2023

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is joint inflammation that can affect any and all joints in our bodies. There are two main types: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Fibromyalgia is another common type of arthritis that many people experience. Arthritis can affect anyone at any age but it is most common in adults over the age of 65, especially women.

Osteoarthritis (OA) happens when the cartilage in between the joints is lost and which no longer protects the bones from rubbing against each other.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) happens when there are changes in the structure of the bone and cartilage, causing significant inflammation and pain.

Common symptoms of OA and RA include:

  • Morning stiffness
  • Pain in one (OA) or multiple joints (RA)
  • Swelling (only in RA)

Is it possible to exercise with arthritis? Yes, of course! Continue reading to learn more about how to help manage arthritis pain with exercise.

Best Exercises to Treat Arthritis Pain

First, it’s important to start slow and avoid any exercises that increase pain or swelling.

A proper warm up will ensure adequate blood flow to the joints and make movements easier.

A 5 minute warm-up can include:

  • Walking or cycling, without pain
  • Stairs or steps, if balance permits
  • Sit to stands
  • Any activity to get the body moving

Aerobic exercise is highly recommended, but short bouts (10 minutes at a time) of activity may be necessary if there is any pain with movement. Aim for 3-5 days/week and/or a total of 150 minutes/week.

Some aerobic exercises to consider:

  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Aquatic exercises (also helps relieve bodyweight stress)

Resistance training is also recommended to help with muscle strength and function. Remember to start with light weight and increase as necessary, aiming for 2-3 days/week.

Types of resistance training you can do:

  • Weight machines
  • Dumbbells
  • Resistance bands
  • Body weight exercises

Flexibility is the most important to help improve range of motion in the joints. Remember to avoid any pain and go slow. Aim to stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 1-2 times, if necessary.

Improve flexibility with some of these stretches for:

  • Knees and feet:
  • Calf stretch, hamstring stretch, quadriceps stretch
  • Hips and back:
  • Knee to chest (single or double), child’s pose, pelvic tilt
  • Neck and shoulders:
  • Shoulder circles, neck circles, crossbody shoulder stretch

Please discuss any increase in symptoms or discomfort with your doctor before starting any exercise program.


The importance of regular activity is crucial for those who have arthritis and suffer from constant pain or discomfort. Aerobic exercise, resistance training, and flexibility are all important to include in your daily life to help manage and treat arthritis pain.

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