Effective Exercises for Arthritis Management

Motivating yourself to exercise is challenging for many, and most particularly for those dealing with arthritis pain. But exercise is just as critical for arthritis sufferers, if not more so. This is because inactivity makes your joints stiffer and lessens their flexibility. In the long run, not exercising because you have arthritis pain may be worsening your condition.

Consult with your physician before starting the following exercises. For all these exercises, work up to three sets of 10 repetitions each, unless you can start at that level easily. If a beginner, start with one set of 10 repetitions.

Lower Body

  1. Hamstring stretch – Keeping your back straight and holding onto a stable surface, lift your leg straight in front of you (or use a step or the wall) until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold that stretch for 30 seconds. Do this three to five times per leg. This helps all lower body joints.
  2. Hip flexor – Stand in place and kick up in front of you. Do the same to your side, to the back and to your opposite side. Do 10 repetitions in each direction on each leg.
  3. Leg extensions – Seated in chair and lift your knee out in front of you in a controlled, extend your leg out in front of you. This strengthens your thigh muscles, or quadriceps, which takes pressure off the knee.
  4. Chair squats – Use a chair without arms if possible and sit towards the front of the chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Counting to three, come to a full standing position. Counting to three, sit. Keep the movement controlled; don’t flop into the chair.
  5. Heel lifts – Holding onto a firm surface, lift your heel back toward your buttocks. This moves the knee joint, stretches the quadriceps, and works the hamstring, knee muscles and gluts. Hold for 10 seconds to start.

Hands (10 repetitions on each hand)

  1. Touch your thumb to each fingertip, one at a time. Come as close to the fingertip as possible without pain.
  2. Take each finger and touch it to the palm of your hand.
  3. Make a fist and spread your fingers as far as possible. if you have severe pain, don’t make a tight fist and don’t spread your fingers.


  1. Front raise – Holding your hand in handshake position (thumb up), slowly raise your arm straight out in front and move up to your shoulder. Do both together if balance allows.
  2. Lateral raise – This is the same exercise as above, but out to your side. Positioning your thumb facing the ceiling is typically more pain-free.
  3. Stretches – Cup your elbow with your other hand and pull to across your chest and hold for 30 seconds. Release. Slowly roll your shoulders backwards for 10 repetitions. Do one shoulder at a time or together.

An indoor, heated pool is the best place to exercise if you have arthritis. The water’s buoyancy relieves pressure on the joints, while the water warms and loosens them. However, these work equally well on land. As with all exercises, take it slow at first and stop if you feel pain. If you belong to a gym, two pieces of exercise equipment that work well for people with severe arthritis are recumbent bikes and NuStep machines. And don’t forget good-old-fashioned walking. Depending on how severe your arthritis is, you may have to break up a 30-minute walk into three increments of 10 minutes throughout the day.

Whatever you do, remember to move! Get to the Kingsport Wellness Center to get started!

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