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Quick Tips: Exercising Safely With Arthritis

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Exercise is one of the best things you can do to help keep your muscles strong and reduce joint pain and stiffness. And it can help you reach and stay at a healthy weight.

But you want to make sure that you don't hurt your joints when you exercise. Before you get started, ask your doctor what kind of activity would be good for you.

These tips can help you exercise safely:

  • Pace yourself, especially if you haven't exercised for a while. Start slowly, and don't push yourself too hard. Then work your way up to where you can exercise for a longer time or do the exercise with more effort.
  • Manage pain. If your joint pain gets worse after exercise, try using ice on the joints that hurt. You may want to take an over-the-counter pain medicine before you exercise, such as acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen (for example, Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (for example, Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Rest your joints if they are swollen. For example, if your knees are swollen, don't use the stairs for a few days. Walk a shorter distance, and switch to swimming or riding an indoor bike.

Know when you have sore muscles and not joint pain. If your muscles are sore, you can safely exercise through the soreness. (You could exercise through joint pain too, but it's not safe to do so.)

If you have joint pain that lasts for more than a day after you exercise, you need to:

  • Rest the joint until your pain gets back to the level that is normal for you.
  • Exercise for less time or with less effort.
  • Try another exercise that doesn't cause pain.

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  Osteoarthritis: Exercising With Arthritis

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

American Occupational Therapy Association
4720 Montgomery Lane, P.O. Box 31220
Bethesda, MD  20824-1220
Phone: (301) 652-2682
Fax: (301) 652-7711
TDD: 1-800-377-8555
Web Address: http://www.aota.org
 

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is the nationally recognized professional association of approximately 35,000 occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and students of occupational therapy. AOTA's mission is to advance the quality, availability, use, and support of occupational therapy through standard-setting, advocacy, education, and research on behalf of its members and the public.


Arthritis Foundation (U.S.)
P.O. Box 7669
Atlanta, GA  30357
Phone: 1-800-283-7800
Web Address: www.arthritis.org
 

The Arthritis Foundation provides grants to help find a cure, prevention methods, and better treatment options for arthritis. It also provides a large number of community-based services nationwide to make living with arthritis easier, including self-help courses; water- and land-based exercise classes; support groups; home study groups; instructional videotapes; public forums; free educational brochures and booklets; the national, bimonthly consumer magazine Arthritis Today; and continuing education courses and publications for health professionals.


Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Joan Rigg, PT, OCS - Physical Therapy
Last Revised April 8, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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