General fitness exercises

Fitness exercises are very important to keep your heart healthy. It can be as simple as walking a bit further or faster than normal.


Swimming is an excellent all-round exercise for people with arthritis. The water supports your joints, which makes it easier to move them. You can strengthen muscles and exercise your heart and lungs by moving your limbs firmly against the resistance of the water.

If you have neck problems, breaststroke may make it worse. If so, it’s worth checking your technique. Remember, it’s never too late to go to a swimming class if you need to. If you have osteoporosis, it’s important to do weight-bearing exercise as well as swimming to help maintain bone density.

Some sports centres offer Aquarobics. It gives a good overall workout but won’t put too much stress on your joints. Check with your doctor first and go at your own pace if you feel the exercises are too fast for you.

Hydrotherapy is a set of exercises done in warm water under the supervision of a physiotherapist. It’s safe and effective for arthritis and back pain so ask your healthcare team what’s available in your area.

Walking is a simple, cheap and very effective way to exercise. Putting weight through your legs when you walk helps keep your bones as strong as possible. Start gently and gradually increase the amount you do each time. Start by walking a few houses away and back. Time yourself and then try to improve on the time each day. Or try gradually increasing the distance, or walking uphill more often.

General fitness classes (some of which are aimed at older people) and T’ai chi are suitable for people with arthritis. Low-impact aerobics/step aerobics may be more suitable than high-impact aerobics. If you have joint pain some of the exercises may make it worse. Yoga has also been shown to help some people with arthritis. Get advice from your physiotherapist before you start.

Cycling is very good for strengthening your knees and for general fitness. Use an exercise bike or traffic-free cycle routes if you prefer not to go out on busy roads. If you get a lot of knee pain you may have to take it very gently to start off with. Stop if your pain gets worse after cycling.


You may find it useful to join a gym and use different equipment to strengthen muscles and get fitter. Using weights can increase pain if they’re too heavy so it’s better to use very low weights and do lots of slow, controlled repetitions. It can be useful to discuss your exercise programme with your gym instructor or physiotherapist.

Is there any type of exercise I shouldn’t do?

Jogging can jar your joints and increase pain, so it may not be the best way for you to keep fit if you have joint pain.

Keep-moving-exercise-posterStretching and strengthening exercises in the Keep moving poster

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