The Importance of Exercise When You Have Arthritis

Exercise, arthritis, Rheumatology Center of New Jersey

Arthritis is a collection of joint diseases where you feel pain, stiffness, and swelling in one or more joints, such as your shoulder, hips, hands, or knees. Whether you have osteoarthritis (caused by overuse or aging), or rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease), moving your afflicted joint is probably painful and makes it hard to get through your day.

The natural response to pain is to avoid it. If you have arthritis, you might decide to limit your movements or even sit down or lie down a lot. But resting your joint doesn’t make it healthier and can even make your arthritis worse.

Our expert rheumatologists at Rheumatology Center of New Jersey encourage you to increase your joint and overall health through a selective exercise program. Exercise strengthens your body and gives you energy, too.

Increase your range of motion

Gentle exercises, such as arm and leg circles, increase circulation to your joints. Start with small circles and work to larger ones gradually. Twisting gently from side to side or front to back warms up your spine.

Stretching your muscles also increases your range of motion. Find some stretching exercises online, or attend a local yoga class to learn how to stretch safely.

Start each morning with these gentle warmups for less stiffness all day long. You can also do range-of-motion exercises before and after working out as part of your warmup or cool-down routines.

Improve your lung capacity

Aerobic exercise brings more oxygen into your lungs and heart to make them work better and more efficiently.  You don’t have to run a marathon to get enough aerobic exercise: Walking to the gym or grocery store is a good start.

Other types of aerobic exercise that are good for women and men with arthritis include:

Aerobic exercises also burn calories, so they can be part of a weight-loss regimen that takes extra pressure off your joints. If you haven’t exercised for a while, start at just a few minutes at a time and then work up to 30-minute aerobic sessions at least three days a week.  

Build up your muscles

Your joints are less likely to grind together and hurt if your muscles and supporting tissues are healthy and strong. Weightlifting provides the right kind of stress for both your muscles and bones. If weights aren’t right for you, try resistance bands.

Alternate muscle training between different muscle groups so you don’t overdo it. Train legs one day, give weight training a break the next, and then move on to arms and shoulders. Don’t forget your core: A strong core helps keep your spine erect and aligned, which removes stress from weight-bearing joints.

Work on your balance

As part of your strengthening, aerobics, and range-of-motion programs, add in some balance challenges to minimize your risk for a fall. While keeping one hand on a countertop or wall, try to balance on one foot at a time. Count for as long as you can, aiming to hold a one-foot balance for up to 100 counts.

You can also take classes that strengthen your balance, such as:

If you’re not sure what kind of exercises are right for you, feel free to ask our experts. We can help you find exercises and design a weekly regimen that matches your current fitness level as well as your lifestyle. As you grow stronger and your joint pain improves, we’ll make suggestions to modify your routine.

If you have stiff, uncomfortable joints and want relief, call us today.

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