Exercise for Arthritis

By  , Expert Content
Oct 27, 2017

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Arthritis is a disease characterized by stiffness, inflammation, pain and loss of joint function. The range of movement at the affected joints gets restricted leading to a less active lifestyle. This in turn causes muscle weakness and fatigue and hence loss of functional independence for an arthritic patient.


The primary goal of an individual suffering from arthritis should be to improve the ability to perform normal daily activities without undue fatigue and pain. It helps in improving cardiovascular and muscular fitness and also augments joint mobility, flexibility and decreases pain and swelling.


Exercise is possible and highly beneficial for the treatment of arthritis. It is also a cost effective alternative to medication and surgery. Regular exercise strengthens the muscles around joints. It lubricates the joints and reduces pain and stiffness. Exercise also helps to enhance endurance (stamina), fat loss and facilitate long term weight maintenance in arthritic patients who are overweight. Always remember to start slowly and consult your doctor before participating in any exercise plan.


Exercise prescription for Arthritis


A)    Aerobic exercise




Brisk Walking, Cycling, Swimming and Rowing




50% to 85% of HRR (Heart Rate Reserve)




3 to 5 days a week




30 to 60 minutes.

Start with a 5 to 10 minutes warm up preceding the 30 to 60 minutes endurance phase, succeeding by a 5 to 10 minutes cool down.
B)    Resistance Training:

Begin with a 5 to 10 minutes warm up including stretches for all the major joints. The resistance training program should incorporate exercises for all the major muscle groups and not just those supporting the arthritis affected joints.




Free weights, Nautilus (machine weights), Elastic bands, Isometric exercises (exercises in which you have to hold a position for a few seconds).




The intensity should be personalized to suit the individuals need and abilities. It will vary between individual.




2 to 3 days per week with a gap of 24 to 48 hours for recovery.




30 to 60 minutes (will vary between individuals).

C)    Flexibility Training:


Flexibility exercises (stretching exercises) should be performed one to two times daily. These exercises should induce static stretches held for 15 to 30 seconds. The index of intensity should be a pain free range of motion at the joints.

As with any exercise training, flexibility exercises should also be preceded with an adequate warm up to increase internal body temperature and blood circulation which leads to an efficient exercise session.


D)    Special Considerations:

  • In any single exercise session, proceed from flexibility exercises to strength training to aerobic exercise.
  • Functional activities such as climbing stairs, sit to stand, should be done daily.
  • Exercise should be avoided during an arthritic flare-up.
  • High impact exercises such as jumping and running which may stress the affected joints should be avoided.
  • Avoid high repetition, high resistance and weight training exercises that may cause increased joint pain.
  • Do not overstretch unstable joints.


Image source: Getty

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