Arthritis and Physical Activity

When thinking about physical activity with arthritis, you may have questions, we have answers.

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If you have arthritis, taking part in physical activity can improve your pain, function, mood and quality of life. Joint-friendly physical activities are low-impact, which means they put less stress on the body, reducing the risk of injury.

Examples of joint-friendly activities include walking, biking, and swimming. It can also help you manage other chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Before beginning any exercise, you should first talk with your doctor. You should seek answers to these questions:

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Why it matters

1. What type of arthritis do you have?

Your type of arthritis will help you and your doctor know what type of physical activity will benefit you the most.

2. What is your level of pain?

Your pain level will help you and your doctor know what frequency and intensity will benefit you the most.

3. What other medical conditions do you have?

Your other medical conditions will help you and your doctor know what other limitations you might have with physical activity.

Stay as active as your health allows, always talk with your doctor and be mindful of your symptoms. Remember, some physical activity is better than none.

See your doctor when:

When you are physically active, it is important to listen to your body. Start slow, consider how you are feeling, and adjust your activity levels on days when your arthritis symptoms flare up.

  • Use the talk test to see your activity level. See if you can talk through your activity, if so this is a low to moderate level activity. If you cannot hold a conversation, you are engaging in vigorous activity.
  • If you are not sure where to start, or are looking for a little extra support, talk to your doctor or call or visit your local parks and recreation department and ask about the types of activities that fit your needs.

With arthritis it is normal to have some pain, stiffness and swelling after exercise. It may take several weeks for your body to get used to your new physical activity level, sticking with it will result in long-term relief. Other tips if you have pain:

  • Make sure you are wearing shoes that fit well and are comfortable.
  • Try a different type of exercise.
  • Warm up and cool down before you exercise.

There are many great ways to get active. Talk to your doctor about physical activity and what might be right for you.

  • Aerobic Activity: Low-impact aerobic activity – like walking, swimming, and biking – minimize the wear and tear of your joints.
  • Flexibility Training: Help increase your range-of-motion by participating in activities that improve your flexibility, like stretching and yoga.
  • Strengthening Activities: Try activities like yoga, weight training, or working with resistance bands to strengthen your muscles, which can help protect your joints.
  • Balance exercises: These include things like walking backwards, standing on one foot.