SF: Physical Activity. The Arthritis Pain Reliever.

The Benefits of Physical Activity for Adults with Arthritis

Regular physical activity has many benefits for everyone, but this is especially true for people with arthritis because the pain can make it difficult to stay motivated. Use Arthritis as a motivator and be careful not to use it as an excuse because being inactive is no longer an option for those with arthritis. Participating in arthritis-friendly physical activity improves pain, function, mood, and quality of life without making symptoms worse. Being physically active can also delay the onset of disability and help people with arthritis manage other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Safe, enjoyable physical activity is possible for most adults with arthritis. Most people with arthritis can safely exercise on their own or join one of many proven programs available in communities across the country.

Watch the Arthritis Pain Reliever video to learn more about the benefits of physical activity and the types and amounts of exercise helpful for people with arthritis.


Research shows that exercise is one of the best treatments for osteoarthritis. Exercise can improve mood and outlook, decrease pain, increase flexibility, strengthen the heart and improve blood flow, maintain weight, and promote general physical fitness.

Exercise is also inexpensive and, if done correctly, has few negative side effects. The amount and form of exercise prescribed will depend on which joints are involved, how stable the joints are, and whether a joint replacement has already been done. Walking, swimming, and water aerobics are a few popular types of exercise for people with osteoarthritis. Your doctor and/or physical therapist can recommend specific types of exercise depending on your particular situation. Attention to rest and periods of relief from stress on the joints is also important.

On the Move: Fighting Osteoarthritis With Exercise

You can use exercises to keep strong and limber, improve cardiovascular fitness, extend your joints’ range of motion, and reduce your weight. The following types of exercise are part of a well-rounded arthritis treatment plan.

Strengthening Exercises: These exercises strengthen muscles that support joints affected by arthritis. They can be performed with weights or with exercise bands, inexpensive devices that add resistance.

Aerobic Activities: These are exercises, such as brisk walking or low-impact aerobics, that get your heart pumping and can keep your lungs and circulatory system in shape.

Range-of-motion activities: These exercises keep you muscles flexible and your joints limber.

Balance and agility exercises: These help you maintain daily living skills.
Ask your doctor or physical therapist what exercises are best for you. Ask for guidelines on exercising.

The safest and most effective physical activities for adults with OsteoArthritis (OA) of the hip and/or knee are low impact, moderate intensity aerobics – such as:


water exercise,

cycling, and

muscle strengthening exercises that use different forms of resistance.

Investments of as little as 60 minutes per week can yield some improvements for people with OA, but a minimum of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity aerobic and two days of muscle strengthening exercise per week is recommended to improve OA pain and function and to support prevention and management of other chronic conditions.¹

The Health Benefits of Physical Activity – Major Research Findings

»  Regular physical activity reduces the risk of many adverse health outcomes.

»  Some physical activity is better than none.

»  For most health outcomes, additional benefits occur as the amount of physical activity increases through higher intensity, greater frequency, and/or longer duration.

»  Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. Additional benefits occur with more physical activity.

»  Both aerobic (endurance) and muscle-strengthening (resistance) physical activity are beneficial.

»  Health benefits occur for children and adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, older adults, and those in every studied racial and ethnic group.

»  The health benefits of physical activity occur for people with disabilities.

»  The benefits of physical activity far outweigh the possibility of adverse outcomes.


Types of Arthritis-Friendly Activity

Adults with arthritis should follow either the Active Adult or Active Older Adult Guidelines from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, whichever meets your personal health goals and matches your abilities. Remember to start slow and pay attention to how your body tolerates activity. The most important thing to remember is to find out what works best for you.

Types of Exercise:

These types of exercise offer lots of options for staying fit:

Endurance / Aerobics  

Aerobic activities. Aerobic activity is also called “cardio,” endurance, or conditioning exercise. It is any activity that makes your heart beat faster and makes you breathe a little harder than when you are sitting, standing or lying. You want to do activity that is moderate or vigorous intensity and that does not twist or “pound” your joints too much. Some people with arthritis can do vigorous activities such as running and can even tolerate some activities that are harder on the joints like basketball or tennis. You should choose the activities that are right for you and that are enjoyable. Remember, each person is different, but there are a wide variety of activities that you can do to meet the Guidelines.

Examples of Moderate and Vigorous Intensity Aerobic Activities

Moderate Intensity

Vigorous Intensity

 » Brisk Walking.

 » Bicycling.

 » Swimming.

 » Mowing the grass, heavy yard work.

 » Doubles tennis.

 » Social dancing.

 » Conditioning Machines (e.g., stair climbers, elliptical, stationary bike).

 » Tai Chi, yoga.

 » Sports (e.g., softball, baseball, volleyball).

 » Skiing, roller and ice skating.

 » Jogging/running.

 » Singles tennis.

 » Swimming.

 » Jumping rope.

 » Conditioning Machines (e.g., stair climbers, elliptical, stationary bike).

 » Sports (e.g., soccer, basketball, football, racquetball).

 » Aerobic dance or spinning classes.

Muscle strengthening activities. You should do activities that strengthen your muscles at least 2 days per week in addition to your aerobic activities. Muscle strengthening activities are especially important for people with arthritis because having strong muscles takes some of the pressure off the joints.

You can do muscle strengthening exercises in your home, at a gym, or at a community center. You should do exercises that work all the major muscle groups of the body (e.g., legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms). You should do at least 1 set of 8 – 12 repetitions (reps) for each muscle group. There are many ways you can do muscle strengthening activities:

»  Lifting weights using machines, dumbbells, or weight cuffs.
»  Working with resistance bands.
»  Using your own bodyweight as resistance (e.g., push-ups, sit ups).
»  Heavy gardening (e.g., digging, shoveling).
»  Some group exercise classes.
»  Muscle strengthening exercise videos.

Balance activities. Many older adults and some adults with arthritis and other chronic diseases may be prone to falling. If you are worried about falling or are at risk of falling, you should include activities that improve balance at least 3 days per week as part of your activity plan. Balance activities can be part of your aerobic or your muscle strengthening activities. Examples of activities that improve balance include the following

» Tai Chi.
» Backward walking, side stepping, heel and toe walking.
» Standing on 1 foot.
» Some group exercise classes.

Stay flexible. In addition to the activities recommended above, flexibility exercises are also important. Many people with arthritis have joint stiffness that makes daily tasks such as bathing and fixing meals difficult. Doing daily flexibility exercises for all upper (e.g., neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, and finger) and lower (e.g., low back, hip, knee, ankle, and toes) joints of the body helps maintain essential range of motion.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to visit us. As always, we are wishing you the best of health!

PS. Be sure to share with friends and loved ones that are suffering from Arthritis and support their efforts to get healthier!

PSS. Be sure to visit our Shopping page because it features lots of Amazon fitness products (big and small) to help you with your fitness challenges and more. Or click the picture of the elliptical to go right to Amazon to search for your wish-list!

Precor Elliptical Trainer Machine
Check out Amazon’s Product Reviews before you buy!

[source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention]

[source:  ¹ Health.gov:  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Author: Joan E Wilder

We provide information and motivation focused on the importance of physical activity to our quality of life. It is our hope to help people invest in themselves by staying active throughout their lives. It's that important.

2 thoughts

    1. Thanks Jim! I’m trying to find what works for my hip OA and have been trying to work it more For strength – especially side movements worth ankle weights and it’s been helping – so I thought I’d share :). Happy Tuesday Jim!

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