Exercise is crucial to good health, both mental and physical. For those with arthritis, however, it can be hard to find ways to work out that don’t cause pain or discomfort.
Have no fear, though: there are some great options available that are safe for those with arthritis, and can even strengthen your joints in the longer term.
In this article, we’ll sum up some of the benefits for home exercise with arthritis and run down five of the best ones you can start doing now.
Why Should You Do Home Exercises with Arthritis?
Of course, when your arthritis is flaring up and your joints are hurting, exercise can be the last thing you want to do. It’s important to note you should never make yourself feel guilty for not doing it, everyone is different and you should go at your own pace.
When done right, exercise can have a lot of benefits for those with arthritis.
- Releasing endorphins, which make you feel happier and healthier
- Increasing your overall fitness
- Stretching out muscles, making your movements looser and easier
- Strengthening and stabilising important structures in your body, reducing the load on your bones and joints
As always, the most important thing is to listen to your body, and to stop if you start to feel too much pain. You should especially be careful not to push yourself if you can feel your pain flaring up.
As a general rule of thumb, if you’re still aching and exhausted after you’ve finished your workout, you should take some time out, maybe even halve your routine time when you next do it.
Home Exercises with Arthritis: the 5 Best to Do
1) Yoga or tai chi
While yoga and tai chi are distinct practices, both can bring important benefits for joint health like better balance and improved mental health, and both can be done easily and safely from home.
Each of these forms of exercises focuses on controlled body movements and stretches – perfect for those who want to avoid too much impact on their joints.
Yoga and tai chi emphasise smooth movement, and practicing either can seriously increase your flexibility, as well as give you confidence in your ability to control and rely on your own body.
There are many free video lessons online, and you can also find live classes over platforms like Zoom.
Note: Each of these practices can be adjusted to be less strenuous. Tai chi is usually performed standing up, for instance, but if that’s too uncomfortable you can do many of the movements from a sitting position.
2) Resistance band exercises
Resistance bands are a great, low cost piece of exercise equipment that you can use for a range of different exercises. They are lightweight and a great alternative to machines allowing you to improve the quality of your exercise and do it in the comfort of your own home.
For a simple resistance band exercise which is great for your knees, just do the following:
Stand with a resistance band around your thighs, just above the knees
- Bend both knees a little
- Step sideways with one foot so that you stand with your feet wide apart
- Step your other foot to meet the first one, and continue
This sort of exercise can be an excellent way to strengthen muscle and relieve pain, building your strength in your knee joints. You can find some other great exercises for knee joints in our article here.
3) Seated side bends
Strengthening your core is one of the best ways to build resilience against joint pain. Your body’s overall conditioning is strongly linked to your core strength, and having good back and abdominal muscles does wonders to support your spine and take pressure off your hip joints.
One of the best home exercises with arthritis you can do to strengthen your core is the seated side bend.
The process is simple. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Keep one hand behind your head and the other pointing at the floor. Lean over as if you’re going to touch the floor with your free hand, hold the position, and return to your starting position. Then, just repeat the exercise on the other side.
You can experiment with holding each position for longer or increasing the number of repetitions you do.
Bridging helps you get many of the same benefits in core strength and stability as seated side bends. It’s also one of the simplest home exercises to do with arthritis.
Just follow these steps:
- Lie on your back on the floor, with your back flat, knees bent and arms at your sides
- Clench your buttocks and raise them up, away from the floor
- Continue to raise until your body is straight from your knees to your shoulders
- Hold this bridge position for eight to ten seconds, then lower to the starting position
You can repeat this exercise as many times as you like – feel free to adjust your numbers of repetitions and sets to stay comfortable.
5) Exercise ball exercises
An exercise ball is a simple, low cost, one-time purchase that can open up a wide world of new home exercises with arthritis to build up your core muscles and strengthen your joints.
Some of the best include …
Half-crunches: Essentially a less strenuous version of full sit-up crunches, this exercise helps you to control your entire body. Sitting on your ball with your feet flat on the floor and your arms crossed over your chest, slowly lean back and lift your heels off the ground. Then, use your abdominal muscles to pull yourself back into your flat-footed seating position.
Oblique crunches: This exercise focuses on your side muscles, which provide crucial support to your central joints. Sit on the ball in the same way as you would for half-crunches, but with your arms raised above your head. Once you’re leaning back, slowly lower your right arm to your left knee. Return your arm above your head and alternate, and repeat as you like.
Marching: This exercise is a little different, but can be one of the best home exercises for hip and knee arthritis. Sit on the ball with your feet about shoulder-width apart, flat on the ground. Lift one heel while keeping your toes on the ground, hold the position and repeat it with your other foot. The key here is to stay stable, using your core muscles to support your entire body and build strength in your leg joints.
We hope this list of some of the best home exercises with arthritis has given you some ideas. Remember to listen to your body and adjust the time you spend on each exercise as you need, and to stay hydrated and eat well. Done right, exercising can be one of the best ways to ease suffering and strengthen your joints. To share your favourite exercises, or find some support from our community, join Together for Better Days.