Arthritis and Exercise
Arthritis is one of the most common diseases in this country. It affects nearly 1/3 of
adults and half of all people age 65 and older. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability.
Arthritis causes pain and loss of movement. It can affect joints in any part of the body. It
often is a chronic disease, which means that it can affect you over a long period of time.
The more serious forms can cause swelling, warmth, redness and pain.
There are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis and many different symptoms and
treatments. Doctors do not know what causes most forms of arthritis. They understand
some better than others. The three most common kinds of arthritis in older people are
osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
For years it was thought that people with arthritis should not exercise because it would
damage their joints. Just the opposite is true. Regular moderate physical activity can:
• Keep your joints moving
• Keep the muscles around your joints strong
• Relieve pain and stiffness
• Gives you more energy
• Helps you to sleep better
• Controls your weight
• Lift your mood
Before beginning any exercise program, talk with your doctor or health care worker.
Your doctor can best advise you on what types of activity are best and suitable for the
type and severity of arthritis you have.
When getting started think small. If you have not been active in a long time, start with
just a few minutes. Build up the amount of time you spend being active very slowly.
Don’t overdo it. Find activities that you enjoy. Look for a partner to be active with you.
Find an indoor activity or alternate indoor site for bad weather. It may hurt a little at first,
especially if you are not used to it. Most people who stick with a program of regular
physical activity begin to feel better within four to six weeks.
Types of activities best for people with arthritis:
• Range-of-motion exercises (for example, yoga) help keep normal joint
movement and reli