Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on December 17, 2020

Do More With Your Smartphone

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Do you have a fitness app on your smartphone or tablet yet? There’s no shortage of choices for at-home, on-demand workouts. Ready to focus on strengthening a certain part of your body? There’s an app for that. Want to ensure the exercises are gentle on sore joints? At least two dozen apps feature exercises or full workouts designed for people with arthritis.

Join a Local Fitness Class -- From Home

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Before the age of social distancing, a fitness class was an in-person event. Not anymore. Many gyms and yoga studios now offer real-time classes online. Look for local establishments with online tai chi, restorative yoga, or other arthritis-friendly classes. That way, if you decide to go in person, you’ll already feel like you know the instructor -- and can meet workout buddies who live near you.

Get a Fitness Tracker

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Wearable fitness trackers motivate a lot of people to exercise more, and there are hundreds to choose from. (Major brands include Fitbit, Garmin, and Apple.) Features differ across trackers. At a minimum, most measure steps, calories burned, and heart rate. Keep in mind these aren’t medical devices, so they may not be 100% accurate -- but they’re pretty close. 

Redefine Exercise

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Regular exercise can ease joint pain, strengthen bones, improve sleep, boost energy, and lift your mood. But what if you don’t like to exercise or simply don’t have time? That’s OK. Any physical exertion counts. That includes mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, washing your car, gardening, walking your dog, and even walking around your house when you’re on the phone.

Grab a Chair

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If you have arthritis in your knees or hips, aim to strengthen in your quadriceps, the muscles on the front of your thighs. They’re key to knee and hip health. An easy move you can do any time of day: Sit in a chair and place both feet on the ground. Straighten one leg in front of you, then return to your starting position. Repeat with your other leg.

Stand on One Foot

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You might not break a sweat, but over time you’ll have better balance. That’s important when your arthritis increases your risk of falls. Try this move three times a week: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and put your hands on your hips. Lift one leg off the floor by bending it back at the knee. Hold for up to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. Over time, increase the number of repetitions you do as your balance improves.

Create a Balance Routine

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Any activity that gets you on your feet will strengthen muscles that help lower your risk of falls. In fact, research shows that regular exercise can prevent up to 40% of fall injuries. But good balance will help you even more. String these exercises together to create a balance routine.

  • Practice standing on one foot
  • Add weights and do bicep curls while standing on one foot
  • Walk backward
  • Do tai chi 

Work Out With the TV

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Dust off your gaming system or check your cable lineup for exercise classes. Research suggests that fitness-focused video games, as well as programs that encourage physical activity, can help you get plenty of exercise. For joint flexibility and to improve your range of motion with arthritis, try your hand at balance games, dance, and yoga exercises. (If you’re totally new to video games, major players in gaming include Nintendo, Xbox, and PlayStation.)

Walk Your Dog (or Someone Else’s)

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Research suggests that dog owners get more physical activity and walk more than their dog-less peers. Don’t have a dog? You can still reap the fitness benefits by walking other people’s dogs. Or better yet, volunteer as a dog walker at a shelter or dog rescue organization. Because walking keeps your joints flexible and your muscles strong, this low-impact, weight-bearing exercise is a good choice for people with arthritis.

Play Like a Kid Again

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If you have kids, grandkids, or babysit for neighbors, make your time with them as active as possible. Play hide and seek, explore a park, dance, or go on ride bikes. Consider that your workout for the day. Because active time with kids can be tiring, practice good arthritis self-care. Start and end each day with joint-friendly stretches, eat healthy food, and make sleep a priority.

Find Walking Partners

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Instead of meeting for a meal or drinks, meet up with friends, family, or co-workers for brisk walks. If you need to socially distance, find a park or other outdoor area with plenty of space. When you have a partner to exercise with, you’re more likely to feel motivated, be consistent, work harder, and be more adventurous with your physical activity.

Volunteer Your Time

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Help yourself and other people by taking on volunteer projects that benefit both mind and body. Consider walking dogs at the local animal shelter, planting trees, coaching a youth sports team, or building houses. Studies show that older adults who volunteer regularly have a greater sense of well-being than those who don't. Of course, you’ll reap the benefits of all that physical activity too.

Walk or Bike on Your Next Outing

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You may be in the habit of driving everywhere, no matter how close your destination. But think about some of your favorite places -- stores, restaurants, the library, parks. Are any of them close enough to reach safely by foot (or bike)? If so, you'll get exercise while saving gas money. In addition, biking is easy on your joints while still giving you a good workout.

Park in the Last Spot -- or Farther

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Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for arthritis, so find ways to fit it into your day. Whether you're driving to the mall, office, or supermarket, make a habit of parking in the spot farthest from the entrance. Then power walk -- or at least walk as fast as your joints allow -- to the front door. As this becomes easier, try parking even farther from your destination.

Add Up Your Exercise Time

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In a perfect world, you’d easily meet the federal guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week. That’s a brisk 30-minute walk, bike ride, or aquatics class 5 days a week. In the real world, joint pain and busy lives get in the way. So take some pressure off yourself: Aim for 10-minute spurts of physical activity a few times a day. You might be surprised how much it all adds up at the end of the week.

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