Exercise and Arthritis

Editor's Note: When you see these three dots surrounded by a gray rectangle — 1 — you can click on it to get further information about the topic. Click a second time, and the message goes away.

This article was edited and updated on November 5, 2015.

Part I: Overview of Arthritis

Most people over 60 have some symptoms of arthritis.

Arthritis and other rheumatic conditions2 are among the most common chronic diseases. There are two common types:

Part II: How to Manage Arthritis

Most adults have one or two chronic health conditions by the time they reach 60, but most people are able to manage their disease(s). Physical disuse and disability is, however, a major contributor to premature aging. Dr. Waneen Spirduso in her book, Physical Dimensions of Aging, identifies three dimensions which contribute to premature aging:

Dimension #1: Time. This is the normal aging process, which eventually drains energy and vitality.

Dimension #2: Disease. Genetic predispositions to diseases, or exposure to external agents, will damage one or more bodily systems and can lead to weakness, fatigue, and frailty.

Dimension #3: Disuse. Sitting for long periods of time, extended bed rest, or general inactivity will dramatically accelerate aging.

We obviously have little control over the first two dimensions, but the third one, disuse, is completely within our control.

The most common medications used to control pain and inflammation of arthritis are:

In addition to medical intervention and therapies, there are some simple strategies that can help to control pain, improve independence and quality of life, and slow the progression of the disease. Here are four strategies that may help:

Part III: Exercise Design

Regular, moderate physical activity has many benefits. Some level of physical activity is necessary to preserve joint function. A combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, stretch and flexibility — taught by a qualified instructor — is the most effective.

The primary goals of an exercise program for those suffering from arthritis are:

Part IV: Exercise Guidelines and Considerations

If you have OA or RA, here are some guidelines to follow when exercising:

Part V: Research on Arthritis and Exercise

Here are four studies about exercise and its benefits for those who suffer from arthritis:

See also:

This article is part of a series about various health conditions and the benefits of exercise. The other articles are:

Source for some of this article: Exercise and Arthritis by Stephanie Harris, MD, and Gwen Hyatt, MS

I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.

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  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. 

  2. There are other types of rheumatic disease but they are not as common as OA and RA. These include: spondyloarthropathy, Reiter’s syndrome, gout, psoriatic arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, juvenile arthritis, systemic lupus, scleroderma, and fibromyalgia.