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Should people with arthritis exercise? Yes. People with arthritis should exercise. But “exercise” doesn’t have to mean strenuous activity like running or using gym machines. Any activity that gets your body moving is good for you.

In the long run, regular physical activity can help reduce the pain of arthritis, even though it might be painful at first.

What should I do before starting an exercise routine? Before trying any new physical activities, talk with your doctor or nurse. Ask them if there are any exercises or sports you should or should not do. You can also ask if you should see a physical therapist (exercise expert). A physical therapist can help you find activities that work for your body and situation.

What kind of exercise should I do? That’s up to you. But whatever activities you choose, your routine should work in 2 ways. It should:

Make your muscles stronger – Doing this can reduce pain and help to protect your joints and make them stronger. One way to make muscles stronger is to use weights or weight machines. Or you can do exercises using elastic “resistance bands.” But there are ways to strengthen your muscles without special equipment, too. For example, you might do pushups or squats.

Increase your heart rate and breathing – Doing this can improve your heart health and lower your blood pressure. Doctors recommend that you increase your heart rate with “low-impact” activities, such as walking, biking, or swimming. Low-impact activities are easier on your joints than high-impact activities. Doctors do not usually recommend high-impact activities, such as running, for people with arthritis.

If you can’t get outside, there are exercises you can do in a small space. You might be able to find videos you can follow along with on a TV or smartphone.

How much should I exercise? You should try to do physical activity about 30 to 40 minutes a day, on most days of the week. If you can’t exercise for 30 to 40 minutes at a time, break your exercise up into shorter sessions. Try to move around whenever you can. For example, you can set a timer to remind you get up and walk around every hour. Even small amounts of movement are good for your health.

How can I exercise safely if I have arthritis? If you have arthritis, you can exercise safely by following these tips:

Start small with your exercise routine. Then you slowly build up to more exercise or different activities.

Take 10 to 15 minutes to warm up before exercising – To warm up, you can walk slowly, march in place, or stretch your muscles.

If you exercise with weights, start with lighter weights and slowly build up to using heavier weights over time.

Make sure to cool down for about 5 minutes after exercising – To cool down, you can walk slowly or stretch your muscles.

Protect your joints when you exercise by:

Walking on a flat surface, if you have hip, knee, foot, or ankle problems

Wearing shoes that support and cushion your feet

Paying attention to pain – If you have pain, stop or change what you are doing.

Avoiding movements that twist your joints

Wearing a knee brace or other support, if your doctor or nurse recommends it

What exercises can help with different kinds of arthritis? Certain exercises can help with different kinds of arthritis and different symptoms.

For osteoarthritis and most other types of arthritis, it’s important to move your joints every day, even if they hurt. For example, you should try to bend and straighten your knees a few times a day, even if you have arthritis pain in your knees. Some people also find that Tai Chi helps. Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that involves slow, gentle movements.

To help reduce stiffness in the morning, try these exercises before going to sleep.

To help with hand and wrist symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, try these hand and wrist exercises.

To help with back and hip symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis, try these back and hip exercises.

What if I have pain when I exercise? If you have pain when you exercise or do other physical activity, talk with your doctor or nurse about what you can do. When you first start increasing your activity level, some aching or soreness is normal. If your pain is severe or lasts more than 2 hours after exercising, you might need to change your exercise routine or the types of activity you do.