Quick Tips: Exercising Safely With Arthritis

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Exercise is one of the best things you can do to help keep your muscles strong and reduce joint pain and stiffness. And it can help you reach and stay at a healthy weight.

But you want to make sure that you don't hurt your joints when you exercise. Before you get started, ask your doctor what kind of activity would be good for you.

These tips can help you exercise safely:

  • Pace yourself, especially if you haven't exercised for a while. Start slowly, and don't push yourself too hard. Then work your way up to where you can exercise for a longer time or do the exercise with more effort.
  • Manage pain. If your joint pain gets worse after exercise, try using ice on the joints that hurt. You may want to take an over-the-counter pain medicine before you exercise, such as acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen (for example, Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (for example, Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Rest your joints if they are swollen. For example, if your knees are swollen, don't use the stairs for a few days. Walk a shorter distance, and switch to swimming or riding an indoor bike.

Know when you have sore muscles and not joint pain. If your muscles are sore, you can safely exercise through the soreness. (You could exercise through joint pain too, but it's not safe to do so.)

If you have joint pain that lasts for more than a day after you exercise, you need to:

  • Rest the joint until your pain gets back to the level that is normal for you.
  • Exercise for less time or with less effort.
  • Try another exercise that doesn't cause pain.

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Other Places To Get Help


American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.
Arthritis Foundation (U.S.)


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerJoan Rigg, PT, OCS - Physical Therapy

Current as ofAugust 21, 2015