Arthritis and exercise

If you have arthritis, keeping active through regular exercise can help manage your condition. However, it is important you find the right type and level of exercise.

Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, improve your posture and reduce your chance of getting osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones).

Exercise program
There are three types of exercise that combine to make up a good fitness program. They are:

range of movement – this helps improve strength and flexibility and promotes good posture; try swimming, tai chi and golf
strengthening – this will help build the muscles, which in turn provide better support for your joints; try weight training
aerobic – this raises your heartbeat, which helps to improve your level of fitness by strengthening your heart; some of the best forms of aerobic exercise are brisk walking, cycling and tennis.
Remaining physically active gives you the best possible chance of managing the symptoms of arthritis effectively. It is also essential for minimising your risk of developing a number of other health problems.

Finding the right level
Finding the right level of physical activity is very important if you are to feel the health benefits of exercise. Try to be realistic about the amount of exercise you are able to do and choose an activity you enjoy.

You may experience some pain when you first start a new exercise program. This is often due to new muscles being used. However, if you feel pain for longer than two hours after exercising, or you have any pain in the joints, consult your doctor or physiotherapist before doing the exercise again.

Exercising with osteoarthritis
Listed below are some tips for exercising with osteoarthritis:

Regular exercise can be the best way to help reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. By keeping active you will strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints which will reduce further joint deterioration.
Exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight which means you will put less strain on your joints.
A moderate exercise program is far more beneficial than a strenuous program. Too much exercise can cause further pain and joint degeneration.
Try to do small exercises every day to improve your range of movement.
Never force a painful joint.
Exercising with rheumatoid arthritis
Listed below are some tips for exercising with rheumatoid arthritis:

It is very important for people with rheumatoid arthritis to get the right balance between rest and activity.
You can still exercise during a flare-up, but you should reduce the intensity of your workout.
Exercise when you are least tired.
Try to do small exercises every day that improve your range of movement.
Exercising in the morning can help to reduce morning stiffness.
Exercises that build and strengthen muscles can help protect and support your joints.
Swimming, cycling and brisk walking are low impact exercises and particularly good for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Concentrate on maintaining good posture at all times.