Northside Health Library

Stay active and exercise - arthritis


Being active is good for your overall health and sense of well-being. People with arthritis who are active feel better than those who are not active.

Exercise keeps your muscles strong and increases your range of motion (the amount you can bend and flex your joints). Tired, weak muscles add to the pain or stiffness that arthritis causes.

Stronger muscles also help you with balance, and this helps prevent falls. And, being stronger can help you lose weight, sleep better, and give you more energy.

Doing exercises and being as strong as possible before surgery will speed up your recovery.

Choose from These Activities

Water exercises may be the best exercise for your arthritis. Swimming laps, water aerobics, or even just walking in the shallow end of a pool all make the muscles around your spine and legs stronger.

Ask your health care provider if you can use a stationary bike. If you have severe arthritis, using a bike may speed up damage to the cartilage and bone in your knee.

If you are not able to do water exercise or use a stationary bike, try walking, as long as it does not cause too much pain. Walk on smooth, even surfaces, such as the sidewalks near your home or inside a shopping mall.

Ask your physical therapist or health care provider to show you gentle exercises that will increase your range of motion and strengthen the muscles around your knees.

Be Careful

As long as you do not overdo it, staying active and getting exercise will not make your knee arthritis become worse any faster.

Taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) or another pain pill before you exercise is okay. But do not overdo your exercise, because the medicine may mask pain.

If any exercise you do causes your pain to become worse later in the day, during the night, or the next day, try cutting back on how long or how hard you exercise the next time.

Review Date: 8/12/2011
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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