Arthritis and Exercise? Most definitely!


It is found 1 in 6 Australians have some form of arthritis, that’s 3.9million people!

Arthritis is the umbrella term for more than 100 conditions affecting the muscle and bones particularly the joints (where two or more bones meet). Arthritis symptoms may include pain, stiffness and inflammation, resulting in muscle weakness and joint instability which often results in functional limitations and reduced quality of life.



·      Inflammatory – these conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, juvenile arthritis, gout and ankylosing spondylitis, involving inflammation or swelling as one of the main symptoms

·       Degenerative – the main form of degenerative arthritis is osteoarthritis. It involves degeneration or deterioration of the cartilage, bone, ligaments and muscles in and around the joint.

·       Others – conditions affecting bone or soft tissues including osteoporosis


The most common forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis, gout and osteoarthritis accounting for more than 95% of cases in Australia.

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS – An autoimmune disease causing your immune system to attack the lining of the joints, causing inflammation, pain and joint damage.

rheumatoid arthritis.png


GOUT - A painful inflammation of a joint caused by a build-up of waste material called uric acid. Too much uric acid forms builds up in the blood either because it is not excreted quickly enough or because too much is being produced. This excess, forms tiny crystals in some joints of the body  causing sudden and severe inflammation of the joint, leading to pain, redness, heat and swelling. Joints most commonly affected include the big toe, hands, wrist, knees, ankles and elbows however any joint can be affected.



OSTEOARTHRITIS - A chronic joint condition affecting the whole joint including bone, cartilage, ligaments and muscles. It is often described as the ‘wear and tear’ condition, with the most common joints affected being the hips, knees and hands. There is no direct cause and sometimes it is a combination of many risk factors including, being overweight, sustaining previous joint injuries, a family history of osteoarthritis or repetitive jobs/tasks involving kneeling, climbing, squatting, lifting heavy loads.



Although there is no cure, there are many ways to help manage your symptoms and prevent further degeneration. Most commonly, people get themselves into this process of visiting your GP for pain relief, taking pain medication but still getting pain, then next comes an x-ray and referral to an orthopaedic surgeon and by the time you know it you are heading into surgery to undergo joint replacement surgery. People often think the only way to help their arthritis is to have surgery. However, in many cases, surgery can be delayed or even avoided with conservative management and this involves EXERCISE!


Exercise has been proven to effectively reduce symptoms associated with arthritis and improve joint mobility, flexibility, strength, posture and balance, while decreasing pain, fatigue, stress and muscle tension. In addition, regular exercise can help to maintain or reduce your body weight and assist with other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancer and depression.


Based on the guidelines, exercise is the most effective treatment options for arthritis and it is never too late to start. All Australians should complete at least 30minutes of activity each day, this can be broken down into small increments throughout the day and don’t forget activities such as gardening, taking the stairs and completing household chores can also count as exercise. For someone with arthritis who has just started an exercise regime, my advice is to start slow and build your exercise regime as you get fitter and stronger. The idea is to get moving,  many people with arthritis have some amount of pain all the time. This is not a reason to avoid exercise. We encourage to exercise within your limits and only stop if you are experiencing unusual pain or increases your pain beyond what is normal for you.

Types of Exercise

·      Strength Training – The combination of pain, fatigue and the type of arthritis often leads to muscle weakness. Strength training is designed to help maintain/improve muscle strength, provide joint stability and improve ability to perform daily living activities. Strength training

·      Flexibility – stretching and range of motion exercises help to maintain the joint supporting muscles flexibility. This helps to reduce joint stiffness and improve ease of movement

·      Hydrotherapy – The buoyancy of the water takes pressure off painful joints and you may find you can move more freely than you can on land. Warm water can also be soothing for sore muscles and stiff joints.

·      Some exercise ideas may include: Walking, water exercise, yoga/pilates, cycling, dancing, golf, tai chi or a prescribed exercise program for strength and flexibility


Where to from here:

·       See your doctor or health care team for treatment and advice

·       Learn ways to manage your pain

·       Have a healthy balanced diet – with plenty of nutrients including calcium and protein

·       Balance activity with rest

·       Change your mindset – don’t let your pain or limitations stop you from doing the activities you enjoy!

·       Get moving - get advice from an Exercise Physiologist (EP), Physiotherapist or Osteopath before you start exercising. They can help to provide a safe and effective exercise program that can help to manage your symptoms and achieve your individual goals.

If you think you would like some more information about how to get started, or to check to see if what you are currently doing is the way to go or should be altered or improved, then please give us a call or jump online and make an appointment to see one of our qualified staff (EP, physio, osteo) and find out how we can help you.


Arthritis Australia. Exercise and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Received from

Hea-Young, L, & Lee, K, J. (2008) Effects of Tai Chi exercise in elderly with knee osteoarthritis. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, 38(1), 11-18.

Nied, R. J, & Franklin, B. (2002). Promoting and prescribing exercise for the elderly. American Family Physician, 65(3).

Nolwenn, P., Williams, M., Bennell, K. L. (2016). Exercise for osteoarthritis of the hip. Physical Therapy, 96(11), 1689-1694.


Anthony Rogan