9 Arthritis Exercises to Help Reduce Joint Pain
Work out with arthritis? You bet! It might seem counterintuitive, but exercise can help you feel better and reduce pain in your joints. But not just any old exercise will do: you need to be strategic about the workouts you choose so you can stay low-impact and injury-free with arthritis exercises.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a condition that afflicts people of all ages, but it’s more often seen in older individuals. It involves painful swelling, diminished capacity and range of motion, changes in the joints themselves, stiffness, and pain. While there are over 100 types of arthritis, there are some main categories:
- Osteoarthritis—the protective layers in the joint and cartilage wear down, causing pain and inflammation. This can happen if you have an injury, develop an overuse issue (common with repetitive motions), and can even happen due to lack of exercise and poor diet.
- Metabolic arthritis, also known as gout—this involves a conglomeration of uric acid crystals that build up within joints and cause pain. This type of arthritis can be due to a diet high in meats, seafood, and alcohol and also has a genetic component.
- Autoimmune arthritis—this is when your immune system is overactive and produces too much inflammation. Inflammation is good if your body is trying to heal, but too much chronic inflammation can cause stiffness and arthritis.
Use It or Lose It
When you have arthritis, it’s important to keep moving if you want to maintain your mobility. Joints that aren’t used regularly will tend to stiffen up, and occasional use can become difficult and painful. Preemptively working the joints and surrounding muscles can help keep your body supple and limber. Regular exercises as below, for example, can help reduce the joint pain caused by arthritis.
- Low-impact exercises—these are exercises that don’t cause a lot of jarring movement; exercises without hard starts and stops and little to no jumping. Think walking, swimming, biking, Tai Chi, and yoga.
- Exercises that involve stretching and mobility moves—these will naturally enhance your functional ability and help you perform daily movements without undue pain.
- Balance and posture movements—help prevent falls by improving your balance and aligning your body properly so the joints don’t experience excess stress or suffer from misalignment.
- Exercises that strengthen your muscles—a stronger body is always a good thing. Keeping your muscles strong will help support your entire body and naturally take extra pressure off the joints.
Benefits of Exercising to Help Reduce Joint Pain
As you continue to include exercise as part of your healthy routine, you’ll notice all these benefits when it comes to reducing joint pain:
- Strengthens your muscles
- Improves your balance
- Increases your energy
- Keeps your bones strong
- Keeps your weight in check
- Boosts your mood and helps alleviate depression and lower anxiety
- Makes you able to function on your own and perform daily tasks without issue.
Try These Arthritis Exercises to Help Reduce Joint Pain
These arthritis exercises will help you reduce joint pain. Go easy and work your way up to more involved workouts over time.
Always work warm muscles and joints, so start your workouts with a slow walk, arm circles, some yoga moves, or some other form of a gentle warm-up to get the blood flowing.
Cardio and Muscle-Strengthening Exercises
Perhaps one of the best (and most under-rated) arthritis exercises you can do, walking is naturally low-impact, which makes it easy on the joints. And the action of walking helps promote better circulation, which means more nutrients are delivered to the joints. You can walk every day without worrying about overdoing it.
This combination of water and walking is a fantastic way to get your muscles stronger by working out against a resistance force, but with no impact whatsoever. In fact, not only is there no impact on your joints, your body will feel like it weighs less in the water as well. Combine this weightlessness with the powerful resistance of moving through water and you just might have the perfect arthritis exercise.
The elliptical machine (where the motions are circular in nature, so there are no jarring starts or stops). Some of these machines offer moving handles as well, which can have you burning additional calories and promoting more movement.
The stair stepper (simply walking up steps)—this allows for an intense workout without jarring motions that could cause or worsen joint pain. Plus, this exercise is great for strengthening your legs, glutes, and calves.
Bicycle (recumbent or upright—both are good)—cycling puts virtually no pressure on the joints and is great for toning your lower body.
If you’re suffering from arthritis pain, you’ll also benefit from strengthening your muscles. Resistance training involves lifting weights and improving both bone and muscle strength, which can help support your joints. It also helps ease stiffness, reduce pain, and keep your metabolism strong, so you can maintain a healthy weight.
Make sure to train all of the major muscle groups in your body two to three times a week, focusing on the chest, shoulders, triceps, back, biceps, legs, glutes, calves, and abdominals. This can be done with weights, on machines, with bands, and even with your own body weight. If you’re not sure how to get started, consider enlisting the help of a personal trainer.
Flexibility, Mobility, and Balance Exercises
Don’t forget to round out your program with these gentle giants: adding some yoga sessions or practicing Tai Chi can help you keep your joints healthy and pain-free. While yoga promotes flexibility, Tai Chi (an ancient Chinese art of movement) helps foster better balance and mobility. Add one or both of these exercises to your weekly routine to round out your workout regimen. If you’re a beginner, look for yoga and Tai Chi programs geared specifically to arthritis sufferers.
If you want to reduce your joint pain, just keep moving. Using your joints in a gentle manner on a regular basis can help keep the pain of arthritis at bay, and you’ll enjoy all of the other wonderful benefits of exercise as a bonus.