Should I exercise if I have arthritis?

650,000 kiwis have arthritis.

It’s a leading cause of disability.

Arthritis has over 100 different forms but the most common by far is osteoarthritis (OA). OA manifests itself as having stiff and painful joints that restrict movement and often interfere with daily tasks like getting up and down from the ground, gripping and holding objects, and even simple things like putting on your shoes.

Should I exercise with OA? If so, what can I do that won’t aggravate my condition?

The answer to the first part of this question is an irrefutable YES.

In addition to improving blood flow to your joints and maintaining a good range of motion, regular exercise brings these wonderful benefits:

  • Helps you sleep better
  • Lifts your mood and mental well-being
  • Manages stress levels
  • Helps with bone strength
  • Promotes good heart and lung health
  • Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Manages blood sugar levels (diabetes)
  • Improves strength and balance
  • Gives you more energy

What to avoid

If OA is in your back, hips or knees you should avoid exercise that is hi-impact (by that we mean anything that involves you taking both feet off the ground – running, skipping, jumping or sports that involves similar actions). Hi-impact exercises increase stress on your knees, hips and spine.

It’s best to go for low-impact type exercise which is activity that does not involve you taking both feet off the ground. Good examples are walking, cycling or any kind of aqua activity. This is cardio work or ‘huff and puff’ i.e. when your heart rate and breathing increases.

Try to work at a moderate intensity – this is when you can talk, albeit a little bit breathlessly, but not sing! If you walk, seek out hills or steps to make the work harder or if you are lucky enough to have a beach close by walk on the soft sand.

How long for and how often? 

Ideally for between 20-40 minutes at least every second day (3-4 times a week) but if you can do more or something every day so much the better.

PART 2 covers mobility and strength-specific exercise.

Arthritis: Mobilise your Joints. #2


Find more great exercise and lifestyle tips from Kris Tynan.