Physical Activity for Arthritis

Friends Hiking

Physical Activity Helps Arthritis Pain

If you have arthritis, participating in joint-friendly physical activity can improve your arthritis pain, function, mood, and quality of life. Joint-friendly physical activities are low-impact, which means they put less stress on the body, reducing the risk of injury. Examples of joint-friendly activities include walking, biking and swimming. Being physically active can also delay the onset of arthritis-related disability and help people with arthritis manage other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Learn how you can increase your physical activity safely.

How much activity do I need?

Adults with arthritis should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, like cycling at 10 mph or faster, or an equivalent combination. You should also aim for at least 2 days a week of activities that strengthen muscles and include activities to improve balance such as standing on one foot. If you cannot do 150 minutes a week, stay as active as your health allows. Change your activity level depending on your arthritis symptoms. Some physical activity is better than none.

Learn more about recommendations for older adults with chronic conditions at the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Editionexternal icon.

How do I exercise safely with arthritis?

When starting or increasing physical activity, start slow and pay attention to how your body tolerates it.

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What types of activities should I do?

Low-impact aerobic activities do not put stress on the joints and include brisk walking, cycling, swimming, water aerobics, light gardening, group exercise classes, and dancing.

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Senior couple bicycling

What do I do if I have pain during or after exercise?

It’s normal to have some pain, stiffness, and swelling after starting a new physical activity program.

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Senior woman stretching her leg across a bench on a track

Physical Activity Guidance

Studies show that physical activity can reduce pain and improve function, mood, and quality of life for adults with arthritis.

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Older women participating in an aqua aerobics class