Getting Started with Exercise to Help with Arthritis Pain & Stiffness

Getting Started with Exercise to Help with Arthritis Pain & Stiffness

Senior woman with elastic tape

It is proven that exercising within your limits can help with strength, flexibility, reduction of joint pain & fatigue. You may think, understandably, that it is beyond you when basic movement is hard enough. You may also think that exercise will worsen your joint pain and stiffness, however in most instances its lack of exercise that can make your joints even more stiff and painful.

It doesn’t mean you have to join a gym, run a marathon or do countless kilometres in the pool. Even low to moderate exercise can help to ease your pain and maintain a healthy weight. The important message is that when arthritis conditions threaten to immobilise you, it will be exercise that will actually keep you more mobile.


Appropriate exercise at your level can help you improve your health and fitness without hurting your joints. When introduced at the appropriate level, exercise can:
> Strengthen the muscles around the joints
> Reduce pain
> Make it easier to sleep well
> Help you manage your weight
> Give you more energy to get through the day
> Improve your balance
> Help you maintain bone strength
> Enhance your quality of life


Before getting started on any new exercise, ensure that you consult your doctor, specialists and other allied health professionals that are part of your current treatment plan. You may want to get an exercise program developed for you from a physiotherapist, occupational therapist or exercise physiologist. Ask your doctor for health professional contacts near you.

Also, remember that at the beginning of any new exercise program, it is normal to experience a small temporary increase in pain, however your pain after exercise should be manageable and should not be increasing between sessions.


Strengthening exercises
These exercises help you build strong muscles that help support and protect your joints. Weight training is an example of a strengthening exercise that can help you maintain or increase your muscle strength. Remember to avoid exercising the same muscle groups two days in a row. Rest a day between your workouts, and take an extra day or two if your joints are painful or swollen.

Range-of-motion exercises
These exercises relieve stiffness and increase your ability to move your joints through their full range of motion. These exercises might include movements such as raising your arms over your head or rolling your shoulders forward and backward. In most cases, these exercises can be done daily.

Aerobic exercise
Aerobic or endurance exercises help with your overall fitness. They can improve your cardiovascular health, help you control your weight and give you more stamina and energy.

Examples of low-impact aerobic exercises that are easier on your joints include walking, bicycling and swimming. Try to work your way up to 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise per week. You can split that time into 10-minute blocks if that’s easier on your joints.

To ensure you are not overdoing it, you should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising, though your breathing rate will be increased.

Tai Chi & yoga
Gentle forms of yoga or tai chi, can help you improve balance, prevent falls, improve posture and coordination, encourage flexibility and range of motion, as well as promote relaxation. Be sure to tell your instructor about your condition and avoid positions or movements that can cause pain.

Warm Water Exercise 
Warm water exercise keeps you moving, improves your coordination and endurance, eases stiff joints and relaxes sore muscles. It provides the opportunity to exercise with guidance from a trained instructor, in a friendly and social environment. Arthritis NSW offers Warm Water classes in various locations in Sydney, for more info see here.


Remember, don’t get overwhelmed. Be organised, give yourself time and take small steps. If you get off track, start again tomorrow. You’ll feel better and proud of yourself when you start to see improvement.

For further information on commencing exercise with arthritis, refer to the article: If your knee hurts, keep exercising, says expert


Our recent Pilot Strength Exercise Program had fantastic results for the 8 participants. Reported improvements from participants included: no longer limping when getting up in the morning, being able to bend over to pick things up ( not requiring aids), not being as reliant on families members, feeling stronger and experiencing less pain.

They also highlighted the benefits of having a reason to get out of the house, exercising with a group of people who understand their condition and having qualified health professionals to tailor the program to suit their capabilities and monitor their movements while they exercise.

Keep your eye out within the next month on the launch of the full program. If you would like to be contacted when the Sydney program is released, please call us on 02 9857 3300.
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