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Arthritis: Take Action

Senior couple riding bicyclesArthritis is one of the most common causes of disability. Four strategies can help people with arthritis thrive.

In the U.S., 53 million adults live with arthritis and almost half of adults 65 years of age or older have the condition. Limitations to daily activities caused by arthritis are common, affecting 23 million adults. Millions report significant limitations including walking short distances (1/4 mile), stooping, bending, or kneeling; climbing stairs; and social activities. Those reporting the most limitations are adults with both arthritis and other chronic diseases and conditions2,3—most commonly diabetes,2 heart disease,3 and obesity.4 Co-occurring disorders can make life even more difficult and limited for those affected.

There is good news, however. The pain and limitations caused by arthritis and other co-occurring disorders can be managed. Effective strategies can improve quality-of-life, reduce disability, and help people live better and thrive.

Live Better by Being Active

Physical activity has been proven to reduce pain and improve function in people with arthritis.6 It can help prevent or delay arthritis progression and disability, and allow those affected by arthritis to maintain independence. Physical activity also can help people with arthritis manage other chronic conditions they may have—such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity—and improve mood.

Physical activity is an important part of staying healthy and there are many types of exercise to choose from, even for those who have arthritis-specific limitations to exercise or concerns about worsening their arthritis, aggravating arthritis pain and causing further joint damage.

  • Several group physical activity classes specifically appropriate for people with arthritis, like Walk With Ease and Enhance Fitness, are recommended by CDC and are made available in communities across the country. These programs can help people with arthritis achieve fitness and activity goals and have been shown to provide many benefits.
  • Moderate-intensity, low-impact activities, such as walking, biking, swimming, and water aerobics—are also good forms of exercise that are safe for most adults with arthritis.6
  • Any activity is better than none. Activity can be broken up into increments as small as 10 minutes for health benefits. For example, three 10-minute bouts of physical activity is an acceptable way to meet a daily goal of 30 minutes. It’s never too late to start.

Live Better by Learning Skills

Self-management education classes, such as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, have been proven to increase exercise, confidence in making healthy lifestyle changes, and the ability to do household and social activities, and decrease depression, pain, and frustration about health. Self-management education classes help people learn techniques to reduce pain and improve function and to develop skills and confidence to manage arthritis and other conditions daily. Using these skills can make it easier to age well with arthritis.

Man and woman walking

Walking can help ease joint pain and improve quality of life.

Live Better by Managing Your Weight

Obesity is common among people with arthritis and is associated with the following:

  • Arthritis-related disease progression
  • Activity limitation
  • Disability
  • Reduced quality-of-life
  • Total joint replacement
  • Poor clinical outcomes after joint replacement
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease

Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight may be challenging, but it is particularly important for people with arthritis. At any age, low-impact physical activity (like walking) and dietary changes can lead to successful weight loss for people with arthritis. In fact, losing as little as 10 to 12 pounds can improve pain and function. At any age, low-impact physical activity (such as walking) and dietary changes can lead to successful weight loss for people with arthritis.

Live Better by Talking to Your Health Care Provider

For many people living with arthritis, being under the care of a health care provider and attending regular appointments may be beneficial. It is especially important for those with arthritis and other co-occurring chronic conditions, and people with inflammatory types of rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and gout. Proper medical management through medications and other treatments helps manage pain, inflammation, fatigue, and prevent potential disability.


  1. CDC. Prevalence and most common causes of disability among adults, United States, 2005. MMWR. 2009;58:421-426.
  2. Bolen J, Hootman J, Helmick CG, Murphy L, Langmaid G. Arthritis as a potential barrier to physical activity among adults with diabetes—United States, 2005 and 2007. MMWR 2008;57:486-489.
  3. Bolen J, Murphy L, Greenlund K, Helmick CG, Hootman J, Brady TJ, Langmaid G. Keenan N. Arthritis as a potential barrier to physical activity among adults with heart disease—United States, 2005-2007. MMWR 2009;58:165-169. [also in JAMA 2009;301:1978-1980]
  4. Hootman JM, Murphy LB, Helmick CG, Barbour KE. Arthritis as a potential barrier to physical activity among adults with obesity—United States, 2007 and 2009. MMWR 2011;60:614-618. [also in JAMA 2011;306:262-264]
  5. CDC. Prevalence of doctor-diagnosed arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitation—United States, 2010–2012. MMWR 2013;62(44).
  6. Kelley GA, Kelley KS, Hootman JM, Jones DL. Effects of community-deliverable exercise on pain and physical function in adults with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases: a meta-analysis. Arthritis Care Res. 2011;63:79-93.