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Exercise Safely with Arthritis

Routines can help manage arthritis symptoms

Veterans working out

If you have arthritis, pain may make it tough to work out. But skipping it isn't a good idea. Regular exercise is a proven way to decrease anxiety, reduce stress, increase mobility, and improve quality of life. Physical activity keeps your muscles strong and can increase the range of motion in your affected joints. Not exercising regularly can make your muscles weak and can add to the pain and stiffness of arthritis.

What exercise routine is best for you?

The key to exercising with arthritis is to find the right physical activity for you. Some arthritis-friendly exercises include:

  • Walking is easy on joints and improves circulation. Taking regular walks on smooth, even surfaces can help ward off heart disease, lower your blood pressure, and strengthen your heart.

  • Yoga can relieve stiffness and help improve your joints' range of motion. Always ensure you stretch gently and within your comfort zone to prevent injury.

  • Water exercises can help relieve pressure on your affected joints. The buoyancy of the water takes the pressure off your joints while still providing some resistance to help strengthen your muscles.

Respect your pain

A physical therapist or another member of your healthcare team may be able to show you gentle exercises that will help increase your range of motion. Physical therapists trained in pain management can teach you about the physiology of pain and how to move better while not increasing pain. Be sure to pace yourself as you start your exercise routine. If you notice pain, take a break. Mild muscle soreness after a workout is normal, but sharp pain during or immediately after should signal you to pause and rest. Warming up will help prepare your muscles before you work out. If you have pain in your joints after you exercise, applying ice may help.

Track your progress online

With a Premium account, you can use My HealtheVet to track your exercise routine. Keeping a record of your workouts can help you monitor your progress. You can also share this information with your health care team to help you decide what exercises are best for you.


Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.

If you have arthritis, which arthritis-friendly activity do you prefer?


Read More

Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (Veterans Health Library)

All About Arthritis (Veterans Health Library)

Choose the Best Exercise Intensity for You


Updated May 18, 2021