The Best Exercises For People With Arthritis

With over 54 million adults in the United States being diagnosed with some form of arthritis, chances are that you or someone you know is suffering from arthritic pain. When experiencing the symptoms of arthritis, it can be difficult to imagine working on muscle strength, flexibility, and balance. But did you know one of the most effective ways for arthritis pain relief is exercise?

Why is Physical Activity Important in Treating Arthritis?

Arthritis weakens the joints, which are the cartilage between our bones that helps us move. They give our bodies mobility and flexibility to move in ways that aren’t painful for our day-to-day life. When the joints become damaged, you’ll notice a decrease in mobility and pain during movement as the bones are coming closer into contact. However, the muscles surrounding the bones and joints can help to support the damaged joint. Physical activity as part of a treatment plan for arthritis is effective and accessible for people of all types.

Muscle Strengthening

Low-impact muscle strengthening exercises are important to add to your exercise routine. Not only will it help you support and protect the muscles around your joints, but it also decreases pain and stiffness. Just make sure to warm up before you begin any muscle strengthening exercises and listen to your body to avoid further soreness. As you work up to focusing on strength training twice a week, you’ll notice an increase in balance, stability, metabolism, and strength.

Check out these videos for muscle strengthening and stretching exercises for hip and knee osteoarthritis.


One of the exercises for arthritis that can be done anywhere is stretching! Depending on the severity of your arthritis, you may not be ready to stretch all major muscle groups twice a week, but you can start slow. Flexibility is important for people with arthritis because it helps to maintain or improve a range of motion which decreases joint stiffness or pain. As long as you listen to your body and modify poses when necessary, practicing yoga has proven benefits in improving flexibility, range of motion, and mental health.

Check out this video for stretches that ease pain from arthritis.


Balance training is beneficial for those who struggle with walking or don’t feel steady on their feet. With its numerous benefits including improving memory and spatial cognition, balance is important to include in arthritis pain management. If it’s available to you, find a Tai Chi, yoga, or a group fitness class that focuses on balance. However, you can try practicing your balance at your pace at home by working up to balancing on one leg for ten seconds three times each week.


Did you know your body weight is reduced by about 90 percent when participating in aquatic activities? The buoyancy of the water helps to alleviate pressure on the joints during exercise, which makes aquatic activity the best for those who struggle with pain due to arthritis. Swimming, water walking, or water aerobics strengthen muscles and improve balance.

If arthritic pain keeps you from exercise, aquatic therapy may be right for you! Aquatic Therapy sets you up for success by building up your strength and endurance so you can move to land-based physical activity. Our Hydroworx 3500 Therapeutic Pool in Pawtucket offers an underwater treadmill, resistant swim jets, a massage hose, and a heating unit to create varied water temperatures.

Exercise is Medicine

One of the best ways to stick to an exercise routine is to find someone to work out with! Our Exercise is Medicine program provides an opportunity for people to improve their general health and wellness through exercise in small groups on Zoom. Led by a licensed therapist and an exercise specialist who guides the group through a total body workout, these classes are perfect for those with arthritis who want to stay active. Participation in this program is covered by most insurance plans or you can choose a low-cost month-to-month membership!

When Exercises for Arthritis Are Too Painful

As physical therapists, we know there’s a clear line between challenging yourself and putting yourself at risk of pain or injury after exercising. Listen to your body and stop if you notice sharp pain or weakness in your body during your exercises. If you feel pain during or after exercise, contact Performance Physical Therapy at 401-726-7100 to schedule an evaluation for physical therapy in Rhode Island or Massachusetts.

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