Achy joints? Get up and MOVE (Really!)

If you’re a regular reader, then you know that exercise is important to most aspects of our health.

But what I often fail to recognize is this…

For those with painful joints (arthritis), exercise may be the last thing you want to do.

Here’s why skipping out on movement is a BIG mistake…

Reduce pain, ward off disability, and more

There’s no denying it: Exercise is fundamental to managing the fight against arthritis.

It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s true.

In fact, scientific evidence shows exercise can help reduce pain and improve physical function in both hip and knee osteoarthritis (OA)…

By an incredible 40 percent!

In addition, exercise plays a large role in preventing disability by improving range of motion and maintaining muscle mass. Both of which support your joints.

There’s also preliminary evidence that exercise could have a structural benefit…

In a study with about 1,200 participants with knee OA, those who simply walked for exercise not only reduced their frequent knee pain when compared to non-walkers…

They were also 20 percent less likely to have worsening of medial joint space narrowing. (This is what makes joint pain so agonizing, as there’s less cushion between bones to prevent rubbing and pressure.)

Not to mention, since most people with OA doesn’t move as much as they’d like, they’re also in the crosshairs for other chronic diseases, like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Indeed, research shows exercise can prevent and treat dozens of chronic health conditions. Including depression and anxiety, two diagnoses that are much higher in arthritis sufferers.

“Where there is a will, there is a way”

If you or a loved one have arthritis and wish to exercise, don’t look at the typical recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.

That might be a personal goal someday… but not today.

In fact, one study found that just one hour of exercise weekly helped participants remain disability-free over the next four years.

And in an analysis of 280 studies, researchers found that resistance training programs lasting 3-6 months resulted in moderate improvements in pain and physical function.

Bottom line?

As I’ve always said… it doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you do it. Find something you enjoy—or at the very least, something you’re able to stick with—and do it as often as you can.

For those who might need more concrete guidance, here’s something for you…

You know that 10,000 steps rule? It appears just 6,000 steps daily can help those with knee OA and chronic pain.

So, perhaps you start with a 20-minute walk three times per week. If that’s too much, start by walking to get the mail daily.

I should also mention that lower-impact exercises, like biking, walking, water aerobics, yoga, and Tai Chi tend to be “easiest” for OA patients.

For more guidance, check out the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance, which has a list of 23 evidence-based exercise programs shown to improve arthritis symptoms.

There’s also a guide with links to free exercise from the organization, Creaky Joints—and even the VA’s “Whole Health” program has free resources available.

I truly hope this helps you find your way to good exercise habits—and a less painful future.


“Exercising With Osteoarthritis: 5 Things to Know.” Medscape, 02/14/2024. (