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Exercising with Arthritis – Start S.M.A.R.T.

Naturally, arthritis pain can slow people down. With a normal age of onset as early as 30, it’s a common misconception that inactivity can preserve arthritic joints. It turns out that the opposite is true. Not exercising can worsen the pain and invite more problems.

Even for people with arthritis, regular exercise promises improvements in arthritis pain, function, and mood.

How can a person with arthritis pain safely begin an exercise regimen? America’s Centers for Disease Control says, “Start S.M.A.R.T.”

  • Start low, go slow.
  • Modify activity when arthritis symptoms increase, try to stay active.
  • Activities should be “joint friendly.”
  • Recognize safe places and ways to be active.
  • Talk to a health professional or certified exercise specialist.


Start low, and go slow

When starting or increasing physical activity, start slow and pay attention to how your body tolerates it. People with arthritis may take more time for their bodies to adjust to a new level of activity. If you are not active, start with a small amount of activity, for example, 3 to 5 minutes 2 times a day. Add activity a little at a time (such as 10 minutes at a time) and allow enough time for your body to adjust to the new level before adding more activity.

Modify activity when arthritis symptoms increase, try to stay active.

Your arthritis symptoms, such as pain, stiffness, and fatigue, may come and go and you may have good days and bad days. Try to modify your activity to stay as active as possible without making your symptoms worse.

Activities should be “joint friendly.”

Choose activities that are easy on the jointsm such as walking, bicycling, water aerobics, or dancing. These activities have a low risk of injury and do not twist or “pound” the joints too much.

Recognize safe places and ways to be active.

Safety is important for starting and maintaining an activity plan. If you are currently inactive or you are not sure how to start your own physical activity program, an exercise class may be a good option. If you plan and direct your own activity, find safe places to be active. For example, walk in an area where the sidewalks or pathways are level and free of obstructions, are well-lighted, and are separated from heavy traffic.


Talk to a health professional

Your physiotherapist or doctor are good sources of information about physical activity. Physiotherapists can consult with you about how much and what types of activity match your abilities and health goals, and help you devise an adaptable exercise regimen.

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