Joint pain can severely limit your ability to exercise. Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis are the most common forms of arthritis. These conditions have different causes but the result of both is joint damage, pain, stiffness, and swelling.

During a joint flare up, exercise should be avoided or only light, non-weight bearing exercise should be done. If you start exercise and your joints become sore, stiff, and swollen then you should change the type of exercise, the intensity, or the time spent exercising to a level that does not cause a flare-up.

How can Exercise Help?

Aerobic Exercise

Any aerobic activity should ideally be low or no impact such as walking, cycling, elliptical trainer, or water exercise.

Exercise that increases your heart rate and breathing rate. At least 150 minutes per week of moderate or at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise. Exercise at least 3 days each week. Exercise can be done in one session each day or in multiple sessions of 10 minutes or more.

Aerobic or endurance exercise is one important part of your cardiovascular disease prevention strategy. Adding resistance and flexibility training will provide even more benefit.

Resistance Exercise

Strengthening the muscles around an arthritic joint can decrease the pain in the joint and help reduce joint damage. Begin with light resistance and progress gradually.

Resistance training can increase your strength, making your daily activities easier. Exercise for all upper and lower body major muscle groups 2 to 3 days each week. You can perform resistance training on consecutive days but not for the same muscles. Allow at least 48 hours rest between exercise sessions for each muscle group. Resistance training can be done with machines, free weights, elastic bands, or body weight resistance.

Flexibility Exercise

Gentle stretching and range of motion exercises are a good way to begin an exercise program if you have been inactive. Stretching and range of motion is also a good exercise option when returning to activity following a flare-up. This is most effective after your resistance or aerobic training sessions when your muscles are warm. Stretches should be done for all major muscle groups at least 2 to 3 days each week. Stretches should be held for at least 10 seconds for a total of 60 seconds for each muscle group.

Balance / Agility Exercise

Balance and agility is not only important for sports, it is also important for day to day activities. Activities such as climbing a ladder, standing on one foot to put your pants on, or getting in and out of a boat require considerable balance and agility. There are many ways to improve your balance skills such as standing on one foot, doing exercises on a wobble board or BOSU ball, Tai Chi, or yoga. Balance exercises should be done at least 2 to 3 days each week.