Skip to main content

Arthritis and Exercise?

Article written by:
Dr. Francisco Arroyo
Medical Director of SportsMed
Sports Medicine & Stem Cell Specialist
Medical | Regenerative Medicine

Arthritis and Exercise?

One of the pathologies that occur when we get old is that the joints of our body also become old and the cartilage that is in the middle begins to wear out, with this comes arthritis or the deformation and inflammation of our joints.

But if my joints are deformed or hurt, is it advisable to exercise? Isn’t it better to stay still and do nothing?

Well, that’s what this article is about: knowing if we can exercise with arthritis or to what extent we can do it without causing greater damage, instead of having a benefit.

The recommendations given here are the guidelines given by the American College of Sports Medicine in the United States (ACSM). First of all, we must know that there are two types of arthritis: the one that occurs due to aging and wear of the cartilage in our joints and is called osteoarthritis, and the second is rheumatoid arthritis, which is a medical pathology caused by chronic inflammation of joint cartilage. In either case, pain, edema, increased temperature and even joint deformity can be found. But why exercise if my joints already hurt? Well, believe it or not, a good exercise program is designed. Just as physical activity can reduce inflammation, pain and improve mobility, regular exercise helps us maintain our weight, which consequently reduces pressure on the joints.

The key is to stay active in different ways without getting hurt, improving mobility and quality of life. It’s not that you have to go running or lift weights all the time, but more importantly, that the exercise is adapted to the patient’s physical abilities so as not to do more harm than good.

How we start: the first part is to carry out a sports exam to know what limitations are present in the joints, from there we can develop a program that first includes stretching exercises for the whole body, factoring in its limitations, and then we can add another type of aerobic or resistance exercise that can help such, always ensuring that the benefits are greater than the risk.

If we talk about a general guide, it would be something like this:

  1. Aerobic exercise – The best options are always low-impact or non-impact: walking, exercise in water, cycling or swimming.
  2. For the above, wear running shoes that are very comfortable.
  3. Start from less and work your way up.
  4. Have a good warm-up and cool-down period.
  5. It is better to have short periods of exercise (maybe 3 times a day for 10 min.) rather than having distance goals.
  6. Do not reach the extremes of tiredness or pain.
  7. It is normal to have discomfort after exercise but it is not normal to stop doing the exercise due to the discomfort or pain, this would mean that we are going beyond our level of fitness tolerance (

Article written by:
Dr. Francisco Arroyo – Medical Director of SportMed