Getting active if you have arthritis

Becoming or staying physically active is a key part of managing your arthritis. However, the pain, stiffness and fatigue common to many forms of arthritis make regular physical activity a challenge. With proper advice and support from your health professional team, you can find a physical activity plan that works for you.

What are the benefits of getting active?

Regular physical activity can help in many ways including:

  • Less pain and stiffness
  • Better flexibility
  • Better muscle strength
  • Easier day-to-day function, such as going up and down stairs, and running errands
  • Improved sleep and more energy
  • Weight management
  • Greater sense of well-being
  • Lower risk of developing other health problems like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and osteoporosis (poor bone health)

What is physical activity?

Physical activity is any movement that works your muscles and uses more energy than you use when you are resting.

You may be are active when working or volunteering, getting to and from places, doing house and yard work, and enjoying leisure activities. you engage in paid and unpaid work, study and leisure activities. Walking, swimming, yoga, golf, gardening and housework are all examples of physical activity.

Research also shows that reducing the amount of time you spend being sedentary (e.g., sitting, watching TV) throughout the day can also have important health benefits. Try standing and moving about for a few minutes every waking hour.

What is exercise?

Exercise is planned and structured physical activity.

Taking a fitness class or playing on a sports team are examples of exercise. The best forms of exercise are those that can be done safelyin a safe manner, have little risk of injury, place little stress on joints affected by arthritis, and are fun.

What is therapeutic exercise?

Health professionals prescribe therapeutic exercise to help specific joints or body parts and address activity limitations due to arthritis. You may benefit from a therapeutic exercise program if you:

  • Have been inactive for more than 6 months
  • Have restricted joint motion or muscle strength
  • Have joint pain or swelling
  • Have poor balance or had a recent fall
  • Are recovering from surgery such as a joint replacement

How much physical activity do I need?

Canadian 24 hour Movement Guidelines suggest adults and older adults do 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week. Even short bouts of activity, spread throughout the day, are helpful. 

It is also helpful to add muscle and bone-strengthening activities using major muscle groups, at least two days per week. If you have any questions about becoming more active, please talk to your doctor, physiotherapist or other member of your health professional team.

Resources and helpful links

    • Arthritis Education Class Guide

    • Arthritis Friendly Pool Programs in the Lower Mainland

    • HealthLinkBC’s Active for Health

      HealthLinkBC’s Active for Health toolkit and talk to a qualified exercise professional at 8-1-1 (or 711 for the deaf and heard of hearing) toll-free in B.C.

    • Arthritis Society – Staying Active: an online learning module

    • Choose to Move - community-based exercise program for seniors

    • GLA:D program

      Education and exercise program for hip and knee osteoarthritis