Physical Activity Helps Arthritis Pain

Learn how physical activity can ease arthritis pain over time.

For many adults with arthritis, severe joint pain reduces their quality of life and limits what activities they do. Physical activity programs can help reduce arthritis pain.

Physical Activity Programs to Reduce Arthritis Pain

Adults walking on treadmills at a gym

About 15 million US adults with arthritis report having severe joint pain. That is pain at a seven or higher on a scale of zero (no pain) to ten (as bad as it can be). Joint pain can interfere with daily activities such as:

  • Carrying groceries
  • Holding a cup
  • Walking to the car

Physical activity can be a good way to manage and reduce arthritis pain. CDC promotes several evidence-based physical activity programs that can help reduce arthritis pain. These programs use low-impact, arthritis-appropriate exercises and include activities such as:

  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Swimming

These programs can help adults with arthritis of all fitness levels engage in physical activity. For adults with arthritis and severe joint pain, providers can recommend a staged approach to gradually increase physical activity.

Self-management education workshops such as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) can also help adults with arthritis learn strategies to manage pain in daily life.

For a full list and descriptions of recommended and promising physical activity and self-management education workshops, visit the CDC Arthritis Program’s Lifestyle Management Programs page.

Arthritis, Severe Joint Pain, and Physical Inactivity

woman holding a knee brace

A CDC study found that even though physical activity can decrease arthritis pain, almost half of adults with arthritis and severe joint pain are physically inactive. While severe joint pain and physical inactivity are common in all adults with arthritis, they are even more common among adults in states along the Southeastern United States, and adults who are disabled or not able to work. Arthritis, severe joint pain, and physical inactivity are linked to limitation such as holding a cup, lifting a grocery bag, or walking to the car.

Healthcare providers can counsel their arthritis patients on how to safely exercise to ease arthritis pain and decrease limitations or refer them to programs that can help.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition

Based on The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, second edition, CDC recommends that adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. Moderate physical activity includes activities that get your heart rate up, but you can still talk during. This includes activities such as brisk walking, gardening, and household chores. Physical activity can be spread out. For example, someone could be active for ten minutes a day, three times a day, five days a week to meet the goal. However, any activity is better than none. To learn more, visit the Move Your Way campaign websiteexternal icon.