Myths vs. Facts: Which Activities Are Best if You Have Joint Pain?
If your joints hurt, do you know what types of exercise are best to do?
When you have arthritis, even basic activities like walking up the stairs or grocery shopping can be painful. This may make you feel like you need to limit the amount of activity you do so you don't put any additional strain on your joints.
But although you may be tempted to decrease your activity level when your joints ache, that's usually not the best solution. In fact, mild to moderate exercise may be one of the best things you can do for your joints. Exercise strengthens muscles that support weight-bearing joints and increases flexibility. This helps joints work more efficiently and with less pain. Regular activity also offers other benefits in addition to enhancing joint health, such as increased energy, better sleep and improved mood. And it's good for your heart, too.
If you have arthritis, are recovering from an injury or have chronic joint pain, talk with your doctor before starting any new physical activity. They may suggest you begin with physical therapy so you learn how to exercise safely without doing further damage to your joints.
To reduce stiffness, just put on your sneakers and take a walk.
- FACT: Walking is the simplest thing you can do to increase flexibility, reduce stiffness and ease joint pain. It's relatively easy on your joints and can keep you moving no matter what your fitness level. Just make sure to wear supportive shoes when you walk.
Swimming is one of the best activities for people with arthritis.
- FACT: Water supports your body weight, reducing the impact on your joints when you move. It also provides resistance to build muscle strength. Swimming stretches muscles and soothes joints. You can also join a water aerobics class or walk around the pool in the shallow end.
Riding a bicycle puts too much stress on your joints so you should avoid this activity.
- MYTH: Bike riding is a low-impact activity, which means it puts limited stress on your body, reducing the risk of pain or injury. It helps strengthen muscles without the impact on your joints that jogging or other ground-based activities can have
A downward dog may be just what you need to ease arthritis pain.
- FACT: Slow and steady movements, like those done in yoga, help reduce tenderness and swelling associated with arthritis. Yoga also helps to improve joint function and flexibility.
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Date Last Reviewed: March 9, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Dietary Review: Andrew P. Overman, DPT, MS, COMT, CSCS