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Living with Arthritis: Exercise

Ease pain and stiffnessVeteran exercising with floating weights in the swimming pool

Exercise is important for all people. But if you have arthritis, it’s even more important. It improves strength and mobility, reduces joint pain, and helps fight fatigue. You don't need to run a marathon or become a bodybuilder to feel better. Moderate exercise can ease the pain.

From exercises to talking to your healthcare team, we have ways to help you move more and relieve your pain.

Exercises for arthritis

Start slowly if you haven't been active for a while. If you push too hard, you can overwork muscles and worsen joint pain. Your healthcare team may recommend the following exercises:

  • Range-of-motion exercises: These exercises might include raising your arms over your head or rolling your shoulders forward and backward.

  • Strengthening exercises: Weight training is an example of a strengthening exercise that can help.

  • Aerobic exercise: You can walk, bicycle, swim, and use an elliptical machine. Other activities: Any movement, no matter how small, can help. Things you do around the house, like mowing the lawn, gardening, or walking the dog, all count toward your minutes of activity each week.

Listen to your body

When starting a new exercise, listen to your body. Muscle soreness is normal, but you should take a break if you feel pain. Pay attention to how your joints feel as you move. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Avoid exercising the same muscle groups two days in a row.

  • Rest a day between workouts and take an extra day or two if your joints are painful or swollen.

  • Work your way up to 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week. You can split that time into small amounts of time. Any amount of activity is better than no activity at all.

Talk to your doctor

Keep track of your pain and let your healthcare team know if your arthritis pain worsens. You can send a Secure Message to your healthcare if you have any questions about your exercise or pain.

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Read More

All About Arthritis (Veterans Health Library)

Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (Veterans Health Library)

Living with Osteoarthritis (Veterans Health Library)

Updated May 13, 2022