Sports and Exercise: How to Enjoy the ‘Game’ Living with Arthritis!

Robbie Adams April 23th 2018

Arthritis Sport Injury

Exercise and Arthritis

Many people who have arthritis avoid exercise because they worry that it might damage their joints or make their symptoms worse. But there are a number of different sports and that are suitable for people with arthritis, as well as good reasons for staying physically active:

Exercise and sports improve physical fitness and flexibility, and they can also help with disease related exhaustion.

Battle Ropes

In general, the activities and sports that are suitable for people with arthritis are those that don’t put too much stress on the joints. It’s always best to consult with your doctor about any type of physical activity regime you are planning to undertake.

doctor and patient

Research and Exercise for Arthritis?

Physical activity has positive effects as it improves fitness, strength and general flexibility. A systematic review of studies has also shown that physical activity can relieve rheumatoid arthritis-associated exhaustion!


Resistance Training / Strength Training

Resistance training your muscles will give positive results in supporting  your joints and in turn will keep them in the right position when you are moving and active. If muscles are weak, the joints can become unstable and this can be painful. Studies have looked into the effect of strengthening exercises, especially in the arm and leg muscles. Participants in the studies trained using light weights or strengthening equipment for 30 to 60 minutes, two to three times per week, improved their strength and also reduced arthritis-related limitations. Everyday tasks such as getting dressed, washing or handling dishes and using forks and knives proved to be easier for the participants in the study.

Weight lifting


Different types of conditioning such as bicycling or swimming, often in combination with other exercises proved to be beneficial. Moderate conditioning, which doesn’t aim to increase the heart rate too much, showed positive effects: It improved quality of life, and it also managed to relieve some pain.

female cyclist

If you have arthritis, you want to be sure your exercise routine has these goals in mind:

  • A better range of motion. (improved joint mobility and flexibility). To increase your range of motion, move a joint as far as it can go and then try to push a little farther. These exercises can be done any time, even when your joints are painful or swollen, as long as you do them gently.

Stretching Woman

  • Stronger muscles. (through resistance training). Fancy equipment isn’t needed. You can use your own body weight as resistance to build muscle.

Muscular couple

  • Better endurance. Aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, and bicycling  strengthens your heart and lungs and thereby increases endurance and overall health. Stick to activities that don’t jar your joints, and avoid high-impact activities such as jogging. If you’re having a flare-up of symptoms, wait until it subsides before doing endurance exercises.


  • Better balance. There are simple ways to work on balance. For example, stand with your weight on both feet. Then try lifting one foot while you balance on the other foot for 5 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Over time, work your way up to 30 seconds on each foot. Yoga and tai chi are also good for balance.


Arthritis doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying life and the sporting activities you love! Always consult your doctor before you start any physical activity program and get back into the game!

Next Week:  Treatment options and practical strategies to combat Arthritis!


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Baillet A, Vaillant M, Guinot M, Juvin R, Gaudin P. Efficacy of resistance exercises in rheumatoid arthritis: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2012; 51(3): 519-527. [PubMed]

Al-Qubaeissy KY, Fatoye FA, Goodwin PC, Yohannes AM. The effectiveness of hydrotherapy in the management of rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review. Musculoskeletal Care 2013; 11(1): 3-18. [PubMed]

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