Everyday fitness advice for people with arthritis

Just because you have arthritis, doesn't mean you can't lead an active life. In fact, being active is one of the best things you can do. Here's some wide-ranging advice for better fitness, more movement and safer exercise for people with arthritis.

Everyday fitness advice for people with arthritis

Keep eyes open

  • You may be tempted to close your eyes during exercise so you can concentrate on your muscles or breathing. Don't.
  • Balance relies on visual input to the brain; keep your eyes open to steady yourself.

Spread correctly

  • Many exercise guides tell you to start standing exercises with your feet shoulder-width apart. If you have arthritis, plant your feet hip-width apart.
  • This narrower distance puts your knees, hips and feet in alignment for good posture and improved biomechanics.

Keep support nearby

During standing exercises, use — or keep within easy grasp — a sturdy chair, countertop or even wall, to maintain your balance and reduce the risk of injury.

Build abs with reps

  • If using weights is too painful while exercise, how do you ramp up your routine when you master the most difficult version of a given exercise?
  • Try to add a repetition at least every other time you do the exercise.

Know which side

If pain or decreased range of motion makes walking difficult, use a cane or rolling walker in the hand opposite the painful knee or hip.

Consider a splint

  • If overzealous exercising makes joint pain flare up, give the injured area a rest.
  • A splint will temporarily stabilize the joint and keep you from hurting it further.
  • You can buy splints over the counter at a drugstore or get them fitted by an occupational therapist. You can buy splints for fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles.

Know the limits

  • If you've had total hip or knee replacement, check with your doctor before doing any exercises.
  • These procedures eliminate certain moves from your repertoire for at least two to six months after surgery.
  • You should, for example, avoid exercises that involve high-impact stress on the lower extremities, leg adduction (moving legs inward against resistance) or flexing the new joint beyond 90 degrees.

Use good gear

  • Theoretically, anything heavy can be used for resistance exercises — milk jugs filled with sand or bags of rice.
  • Such ad hoc gear may keep your equipment costs down, but most resistance exercises are more effective, more comfortable and safer if you use equipment designed for fitness use.

Do it softly and twice

  • If you find a particular stretch difficult, don't push it. Instead, do the stretch as well as you can twice, resting in between.
  • The repeated lengthening of your muscles will provide an extra degree of flexibility.

Add sets, not weights

  • A more intense exercise is usually taken to mean one involving heavier weights. But the issue is the overall volume of exercise, not just the weight of resistance.
  • If you want to make an exercise more intense but find additional resistance to be uncomfortable, you can add sets or repetitions for an extra challenge.
The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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