Arthritis is a common condition, afflicting millions in the United States every year. Arthritis is actually a collection of conditions affecting joint health, rather than one singular disease, as many people think. 

The underlying factor common to all forms of arthritis is inflammation, which attacks and breaks down your joints. The pain can interfere with your daily life, so opportunities for relief are often sought. 

It turns out that gentle exercises are one of the best defenses available, even when you don’t feel like moving.

The Arthritis in Your Life

Inflammation is a natural response from your immune system when an injury or foreign particle is detected. Inflammation, however, can become uncontrolled and chronic, which leads to widespread damage. 

Whether this is caused as a result of poor diet, obesity, or an autoimmune disorder, systemic inflammation can be dangerous. Reducing inflammation through dietary changes can help, as can getting regular exercise.

students stretching in a yoga class

Arthritis can affect any of your joints, and there are over 100 different types. The most common include:

Osteoarthritis: This typically occurs as a result of getting older, as your joint tissues naturally start to wear down with use. The gradual breakdown of cartilage allows bones to rub together, causing pain and inflammation.

Rheumatoid arthritis: This type is an autoimmune disorder that occurs as the body attacks healthy cells and tissues in error. 

Psoriatic arthritis: People with psoriasis (an inflammatory skin condition) are more likely to develop this form of arthritis as the inflammation spreads to nearby joints. 

Gout: A buildup of uric acid crystals in the joint area is the common trademark of gout. This typically develops when your body produces too much uric acid and, if untreated, can cause damage to your kidneys. It is sometimes called “the second arthritis.”

Inflammation is common to each of these types and is what triggers the pain and swelling in your joints. Treating the inflammation is the best way to relieve joint pain, and in doing so, you can live more comfortably with your arthritis. 

10 Exercises for Moving Arthritis Out of the Way

Outside of medications, supplemental therapies have shown to be effective at relieving inflammation and arthritis pain. In addition to this, you should also get moving. At least gently, anyway.

a water workout class

1. Yoga 

Yoga poses are gentle but effective at relieving inflammation and developing strength. Yoga movements, combined with relaxation, help ease you back into activity by gently stretching and strengthening your joints and muscles, so ability can gradually increase without pain.

2. Walking

One of the most beneficial activities for anyone is walking. A low-intensity workout is what you get with walking, and you get to control the pace. 

Avoid hills and bumpy surfaces so as not to shock your joints, and aim for a few thirty-minute sessions a week. Of course, the best part about walking is that you get to pick the scenery

3. Pilates 

Like yoga, Pilates works core muscle groups to stabilize your joints. Combined with relaxed breathing practices, Pilates can strengthen your mind and body. 

4. Water Workouts 

Water aerobics and swimming are both great for arthritis. The water supports your weight, so your joints can move freely and easily in the water. Starting with water workouts is ideal for those with really bad arthritis, and once the joints begin to strengthen, you can move onto other forms of gentle exercise to keep your joints fluid and flexible. 

5. Cycling 

Whether you have a stationary bike at home or gym, or if you go for a ride outdoors, cycling is beneficial for your lower joints. Cycling is gentler on your lower limbs than most aerobic activities but works the same muscles just as well. Start off small and gradually increase your cycling time as you notice joint health improving and pain receding. 

a man and a woman exercising

6. Stretching 

Since arthritis pains are typically worse in the morning due to a lack of movement as you sleep, stretches are the best way to start your day. Using stretching ropes or straps to guide your movements will help. Just remember only to stretch as much as you can and do not overextend yourself.

7. Tai Chi 

The smooth movements of this ancient Chinese practice gently move your body and strengthen your joints and core. Because Tai chi can be relaxing and easy to do, many people overdo it. You should never practice for longer than the amount of time you can comfortably walk. As your joints regain strength and flexibility, you will be able to practice for longer.

8. Weight Lifting 

Weight lifting is a good idea once your joints start to get stronger. Lifting weights gently increases the strength of the muscles supporting your joints, making it easier for them to move without pain. Weight lifting also helps you regain the strength you need to perform daily activities and chores.

9. Elliptical Training 

Elliptical machines are always a hot commodity in gyms and homes alike because of the overall cardio workout they provide. Regular use also strengthens joints and helps improve arthritis conditions. The key is to start with lower resistance levels until you start feeling stronger. 

hands of a man doin tai chi

10. Gardening 

Exercise doesn’t always have to involve going to the gym or hopping on some sort of machine. Gardening is a relaxing and pleasant activity that also serves to give your joints a gentle workout. Specifically, your wrists get stretched and gently moved around to regain strength, and the relaxation you get from gardening boosts self-esteem and fights depression commonly associated with arthritis. 

The Bottom Line

For those struggling with arthritis, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. Swollen joints make just the thought of moving painful, but it is actually one of the best ways to heal. 

Excessive exercise, of course, will cause more damage, but the gentle exercises above will help to strengthen your joints and surrounding muscles, so they can begin to heal. While arthritis cannot be cured, you can certainly move into the future comfortably with these gentle exercises each day.