What is the best exercise for arthritis?

By Get Active in partnership with Versus Arthritis

One of the questions we get asked most frequently is about exercising with arthritis.

Many people are afraid to exercise because they believe that it damages their joints. But keeping active will help to:

  • keep your joints supple
  • reduce pain
  • strengthen your muscles and bones.

We’ve partnered with Versus Arthritis to share some guidance about exercising with arthritis.

How much exercise should I do and how often?

We should all aim to do at least some physical activity every day.

Ideally, we should all aim to do at least 30 minutes of exercise that makes us a bit short of breath five times a week. It’s also recommended that we spend 30 minutes a day on our feet – such as walking or climbing stairs.

Try three or four 10-minute sessions throughout the day if it suits you better than doing it in one go.

If you have joint pain, start gently and gradually increase the length of time you’re exercising. You can break this into smaller chunks if you need to. Doing 5–10 minutes of exercise each day is important to keep your joints moving and your muscles strong.

I’m new to exercise – how do I get started?

It’s never too late to start keeping yourself fit. Your body is designed to move and not doing so can harm the tissues in and around your joints.

Start off by doing a small amount of gentle exercise that’s in your comfort zone, and gradually increase the amount you do – both in terms of the time you spend exercising and the effort you put in.

You shouldn’t need a doctor’s advice to get started. However, if you’re finding it difficult then a GP, physiotherapist or a personal fitness trainer at your local gym should be able to give you good advice and support.

What is the best exercise to do if I have arthritis?

The best type of exercise for you is something you enjoy and so keep doing it.

Low-impact exercise is recommended for people with all types of arthritis. This is any exercise which puts less stress on your joints, and includes activities like swimming or cycling.

Doing low-impact exercise doesn’t mean you can’t push yourself. For example, people with arthritis talk about how swimming is a good way to do vigorous exercise without hurting themselves.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, or another type of inflammatory arthritis, you can continue exercising without damaging your joints or causing a flare-up of symptoms.

If you have osteoarthritis low-impact exercise is suitable, but you might need to try different activities to find the one that suits you.

You can get further advice and support about exercise from a GP, or you could ask them for referral to a physiotherapist. If you are a member of a gym, they may well have fitness instructors trained to a high standard who can give you good advice.

For more guidance on exercising with arthritis visit Versus Arthritis. 

To find activity sessions near you, try a search on the Get Active activity finder