Physical Activity for Arthritis
Why is physical activity important for arthritis?
Scientific studies have shown that physical activity can reduce pain and improve function, mood, and quality of life for adults with arthritis. Physical activity can also help manage other chronic conditions that are common among adults with arthritis, such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
How much physical activity do adults with arthritis need?
- 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week OR
* A general rule is that 1 minute of vigorous intensity activity = 2 minutes of moderate intensity activity.
Aerobic activity is any activity that makes your heart beat faster and breathe a little harder than when you are sitting, standing, or lying.
Muscle strengthening activities should work all the major muscle groups (e.g., legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen
What types of physical activity are appropriate for arthritis?
Tips for S.M.A.R.T. physical activity if you have arthritis
Start low, and go slow
People with arthritis may take more time for their body to adjust to a new level of activity. Inactive people should start with a small amount of activity, for example, 3–5 minutes 2 times a day. Adding activity in small amounts and allowing enough time for your body to adjust to the new level before adding more activity is usually safe.
Modify activity when arthritis symptoms increase, try to stay active.
Arthritis symptoms come and go. Most people completely stop activity when their symptoms increase. It is better to first modify your activity by decreasing the frequency, duration, or intensity, or changing the type of activity to stay as active as possible without making your symptoms worse.
Activities should be "joint friendly."
Unsure of what types of activity are best for people with arthritis? A general rule is to choose activities that are easy on the joints like walking, bicycling, water aerobics, or dancing. These activities have a low risk of injury and do not twist or “pound” the joints too much.
Recognize safe places and ways to be active.
Safety is important for starting and maintaining an activity plan. For inactive adults with arthritis or those who do not have confidence in planning their own physical activity, an exercise class designed just for people with arthritis may be a good option. For those who plan and direct their own activity, finding safe places to be active is important. For example, while walking in your neighborhood or at a local park, make sure the sidewalks or pathways are level and free of obstructions, are well-lighted, and are separated from heavy traffic.
Talk to a health professional or certified exercise specialist.
People with arthritis should be under the care of a health care professional. Many health professionals are a good source of information on what types and amounts of activity are appropriate for people with chronic conditions and disabilities.
What should I do if I have pain when I exercise?
Some soreness or aching in joints and surrounding muscles during and after exercise is normal for people with arthritis. This is especially true in the first 4 to 6 weeks of starting an exercise program. However, most people with arthritis find if they stick with exercise they will have significant long-term pain relief. Here are some tips to help you manage pain during and after exercise:
Signs you should see your health care provider: