Physical Activity and Arthritis
Managing arthritis symptoms
Physical activity is a key part of managing arthritis. Keeping active can help relieve arthritis pain and improve symptoms like joint stiffness or fatigue. There are many great ways to get active. Talk to your doctor about physical activity and what might be right for you.
People with arthritis can be active safely. Take it slow and pace yourself. If you have arthritis, your doctor may recommend:
- Aerobic Activity: Low-impact aerobic activity. Aerobic activity means movement that increases your heart rate, like walking, swimming, and biking. Low-impact exercises put less stress on your joints. For example, activities that involve pounding or jumping may put more stress on your joints and would be considered high-impact.
- Strengthening Activities:Strengthening your muscles can help protect your joints. Try activities like yoga, weight training, or working with resistance bands.
- Flexibility Training:Improving flexibility can increase range-of-motion, which can reduce stiffness. Activities like stretching or yoga may help improve flexibility.
- Balance:Increasing balance can lower your falls risk and help increase strength and flexibility.
Listen to your body. Start slow, monitor how you are feeling, and modify your activity levels on days your arthritis symptoms flare up. A good way to make sure you are at working out at a moderate pace is to use the talk test. That means you can talk through your activity. If you cannot hold a conversation, you are engaging in vigorous activity. If you are sore more than 2 hours after you are physically active, you may want to lower the intensity of your 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 they have that will fit your lifestyle. You can call the Arthritis Foundation’s 24/7 Helpline at 1-844-571-HELP to get one-on-one support from experienced Arthritis Foundation social workers.
Walking for Health
If you want to move more, walking is a great way to start. The Walk With Ease program could help you start a walking routine. Walk With Ease was designed specially for people with arthritis and joint pain. You can join a group class or a self-directed format, which allows you to go at your own pace on your own time. The program lasts six weeks and participants walk three times a week. Learn more and sign up: About Walk With Ease.
Physical activity and health improvement classes
Physical activity programs for arthritis
The CDC recommends the use of Arthritis-Appropriate Evidence Based Interventions – a variety of programs that are proven to be safe and effective for people with arthritis. This includes activities ranging from aquatics to walking to education. Approved programs include:
- Active Living Everyday
- AEA Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program
- AEA Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program
- Camine Con Gusto
- Fit & Strong! and Fit & Strong! Plus
- Otago Exercise Program
- Stay Active and Independent for Life(SAIL)
- Tai Chi for Arthritis
- Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance
- Walk With Ease
Read full program descriptions for arthritis-appropriate evidence-based interventions.
Find a class near you
The Arthritis Foundation has a Resource Finder, where you can search for fitness classes, specialists, events and other resources closest to you.
You can find and register for classes through Juniper, a network of evidence-based physical activity and education programs.