Arthritis Exercise Dos & Don’ts

Getting regular exercise is paramount when it comes to keeping your bones and joints healthy, protecting yourself from certain injuries and preventing diseases like osteoporosis. However, if you’re living with arthritis, the ways you stay active often change to accommodate your condition. 

Making modifications to protect your joints, while still building strength and flexibility, can help avoid unnecessary stress on your joints and guard them from injury. Our team offers some exercise dos and don’ts for individuals with arthritis below. Don’t forget, always consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen!


  • Get variety in your exercise program by focusing on activities that meet three categories: strength, flexibility, and aerobic.
  • Incorporate low-impact activities such as:
    • Walking
    • Elliptical machine
    • Stairmaster
    • Cycling
    • Hiking
    • Yoga
    • Tai Chi
    • Pilates
    • Resistance band training
    • Strength training with light dumbbells
    • Swimming
    • Aquatic aerobics
  • Listen to your body. If you’re experiencing a flare-up or pain, do not push through the pain. Consult with your doctor about exercises that may benefit your specific type of arthritis best and always openly discuss symptoms.
  • Stretch before and after activity, and always do a warmup.
  • Start slow. With any activity, ease your way into longer sessions, taking breaks in between.
  • Walk on flat, stable surfaces to avoid unnecessary strain on your lower back, feet and ankles.
  • Try walking in the shallow, even end of a pool, briskly from one side to the other for gentle resistance and strengthening.
  • Stay upright when cycling, and begin in shorter 10-15 minute sessions, working your way up to 30-40 minute sessions.
  • When lifting weights, begin with no more than 2-5 lb dumbbells (unless your doctor clears you for heavier weights), and work up to heavier weights.


  • If you are interested in yoga, avoid vinyasa yoga (hot yoga) or power yoga. While yoga is known for reducing joint inflammation and pain, vinyasa raises the body temperature significantly and is a much more intense practice, which can in turn create more inflammation.
  • Don’t engage in high-impact exercise (unless approved by your physician) that involves heavy running, jumping and cutting, particularly if you have arthritis in the feet, ankles and knees.
  • Weightlifting above the shoulders can be problematic for those with arthritis affecting the neck and shoulders.
  • Repetitive overhead movement and arching of the back, like that in tennis and volleyball, may cause strain and discomfort for individuals with lower back issues associated with arthritis.
  • Avoid deep squats combined with heavy weights. Never let your knees extend past your toes and be mindful of your alignment.
  • While high-intensity interval training has become quite popular, it is typically not recommended for those with arthritis.
  • Do not run on a treadmill, walk.


Staying mobile when living with arthritis is a beneficial way to relieve pain, improve strength and balance, and lead an overall healthy life. Our team is here to support you with focused and effective treatment plans to get you feeling better and moving better. Together, our physicians and physical therapists help facilitate exercise programs personalized to your condition.

Other helpful Rebound arthritis resources:

Staying Active With Arthritis Pain

How Flexibility Exercise Benefits Bone Health

Blueprint for Better Joint Mobility: How Activity Keeps Your Bones Healthy as You Age