Exercising with arthritis

Exercising with arthritis

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Did you know that exercise is an integral part of arthritis management? Try these arthritis-friendly exercises to help keep joint pain and inflammation at bay while keeping you fit, active and well.

Regular exercise helps to decrease joint pain and stiffness and increases flexibility and strength. It will also help you to maintain a healthy waistline, which further decreases stress on the joints. While there are certain types of exercise that you should avoid, such as high impact activities like running, there are a number of activities that you can enjoy to stay fit and healthy without aggravating the joints. These exercises may help to provide relief from the painful symptoms of arthritis. 

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a gentle form of exercise that involves a series of movements to improve the flow of energy through the body while lightly exercising the muscles and joints. A type of martial art, Tai Chi may help to improve joint mobility and increase muscle strength and improve posture.

Getting started: Tai Chi for Arthritis is a program developed by Dr Paul Lam in 1997. It involves a series of twelve movements that have been designed to be safe and beneficial for people with arthritis.


Swimming is a great way to stay in shape and relieve painful arthritic joints. Swimming provides total body conditioning, is an aerobic form of exercise and is great for cardiovascular health. Swimming will help to improve muscle strength, which helps in providing joint stability, and because it is non-impact, it can do all this with no added stress to the joints.

Getting started: your must-have equipment is your swimmers and goggles. Fins and a kickboard are great tools to use, especially if you are new to swimming. Enquire at your local swim centre about adult learn to swim classes, or you may even prefer to try an aqua aerobics class.


Developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s, Pilates is a system of exercise that is designed to stretch, strengthen and balance the body. It’s a great form of exercise for general fitness as well as injury rehabilitation. Pilates helps to improve core strength and posture and may be of benefit for those with arthritis as it improves joint stability, is low impact and improves muscle strength.

Getting started: Pilates Alliance Australasia is the industry’s governing body in Australia and can provide you with accredited Pilates instructors and studios in your local area. See their website: http://www.pilatesalliance.net/index.php

Nordic walking

Relatively new in Australia, Nordic Walking started in Finland as a form of summer training for cross-country skiers. By using Nordic Walking poles you are able to engage the upper body when you are walking, taking pressure off the joints in the lower limbs, particularly the knees. Nordic Walking provides a great work out for the heart and lungs and is a fun and different way to get outside and get moving.

Getting started: Nordic Walking Australia has qualified and accredited instructors Australia-wide to help you learn the correct Nordic Walking technique. You’ll need Nordic Walking poles and it is better to be walking in correctly fitted footwear.

If you’re embarking on any new exercise regime it is important to consult with your healthcare professional before you get started. Always exercise within your limits and stop if you experience any pain. It is the nature of arthritis to experience periods when the symptoms may ‘flare up’ and during these times it is advisable to rest.