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Pain Management Health Center

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What Exercise Can Do for Your Arthritis

With exercise, you strengthen muscles, reduce stiffness, improve flexibility, and boost your mood and self-esteem.

How to Get Started

Use these simple guidelines to make your workout plan.

How much: Try to be active on most days.  

Every week, get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise such as a brisk walk or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise like cycling fast.

Split up the time. You could do half an hour 5 days a week of moderate activity, for instance.

"Start with just 10 minutes at a time until you can do it for longer," Millar says. You can wear a pedometer or a fitness tracker to help you set goals and keep track of them.

What to do: If you aren’t active now, tell your doctor that you want to get started. Ask for suggestions and any limits on what’s OK for you to do.

Start with low-impact, moderate exercises that rev your heart rate, like brisk walking or swimming. Try tai chi and yoga for flexibility, balance, and strength. 

Depending on how you feel, you may not be comfortable doing higher-impact sports such as those that require running or jumping. If you've enjoyed them in the past, you can keep it up as long as you feel good and you take care not to get injured. Try to avoid high-impact activities on hard surfaces, and wear athletic shoes that are made for your sport and have extra cushioning.

What’s too much? Trust your body to let you know. Some soreness is normal when you get started, but it shouldn’t be too much.

"If you exercise and you don't have joint pain that last for more than two hours after exercise, then whatever you're doing is probably OK," Huffman says. "Any exercise is good, and something is better than nothing." Huffman says you get a lot of benefit with even a little bit of exercise. And the benefits just continue to grow the more exercise you get.


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Reviewed on August 14, 2015

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