Good News About Health, Happiness and Productivity
Click here to subscribe to Vitality now!; Photo of Vitality magazine cover

About Us



Special Reports

Health Links

Contact Us
Photo of man and woman in front of computer

EMPLOYERS: Looking for custom
solutions to empower your
employees to manage their
health? Visit StaywellCustom Communications
for a fresh approach to:
 employee publications
 online solutions
 wellness calendar


Living With Arthritis

Exercising Right With Arthritis

Walking around the block, raising your arms over your head to take something off a shelf and bending over to tie your shoes can be challenging if you have arthritis. By exercising, you can make these and other activities easier and less painful.

Current scientific evidence shows exercise is one of the best ways to minimize the pain and the limitations of arthritis. In certain circumstances, it may even reverse some arthritic changes in the body by nourishing and lubricating affected joints.

Though not a cure-all, regular exercise is an essential part of managing arthritis. When combined with appropriate medications and therapies -- such as heat and cold to treat flare-ups -- it can significantly improve the way you feel and your ability to maintain an active lifestyle.

To reap all the benefits of working out, you need to include the following types of exercises in your program:

  • Flexibility exercises that move the joints and muscles through their full range of motion and gradually increase how far they can move and the ease at which they move.

  • Strengthening exercises that increase the strength of the muscles that move, support and protect the joints.

  • Aerobic or endurance exercises that enhance your overall fitness level by stimulating your lungs and cardiovascular system.

Doing all three types of activities will improve your overall health and help you move with less pain.


Following these guidelines will help you exercise safely.

  • Exercise at different times of the day. Some people find doing range-of-motion (ROM) exercises in the morning helps them loosen up for the day's activities; others find doing such exercises before bedtime makes them less stiff in the morning. A good guideline is to exercise when you feel the least pain and stiffness.

  • Massage stiff or sore muscles or apply heat or cold packs to them before you exercise. Heat relaxes your joints and muscles and helps relieve pain. Cold reduces pain and swelling for some people.

  • Warm up first. Do gentle ROM and strengthening exercises at least 10 to 15 minutes before doing more vigorous aerobic exercises.

  • Don't do too much too soon. Building endurance should be a gradual process that takes several weeks. You'll know you did too much if your joint or muscle pain continues for two hours after exercising or if pain or fatigue is worse the next day. The next time you work out, decrease the number of times you do each exercise, or do them more gently.

  • Do exercises that don't put a lot of strain on your joints. Good choices include swimming, walking, tennis, golf and dancing.

  • Don't exercise a painful, inflamed joint. Apply heat or cold and rest the joint until the pain goes away.

  • Set realistic exercise targets. There will be days when you won't feel like doing anything. Be kind to yourself by building some rest days into your program.

  • Cool down for 5 to 10 minutes after exercising. This lets your heart slow down and helps your muscles relax. To cool down, simply do your exercise activity at a slower pace. End with gentle stretching exercises.

Understanding Arthritis

Arthritis is a general term for more than 100 rheumatic diseases. It affects one in five Americans and is one of the most wide-spread chronic diseases in people over age 45.

Arthritis can affect the joints, muscles, connective tissues, skin and organs. The most obvious warning signs are pain, swelling, stiffness and problems moving one or more joints.

These are common forms of arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA) causes the breakdown of joint tissue, which can lead to joint pain and stiffness. Any joint can be affected, but it usually occurs in the hips, knees, feet and spine.

    Symptoms begin slowly. Joints usually hurt most after they have been overused or not used for long periods.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic disease that affects the entire body. It affects two to three times more women than men.

    Among RA's initial symptoms are fatigue in the morning and after long periods of sitting or lying still. Later, the symptoms also include joint and muscle pain, extreme fatigue and lumps called rheumatoid nodules that form under the skin in those areas under pressure.

  • Gout causes sudden, severe attacks of pain and tenderness, redness, warmth and swelling in joints.

    The onset usually begins in the big toe, followed by attacks in a finger, foot, ankle, elbow, wrist or knee joint.

  • Bursitis/tendinitis/myofascial pain are different than other forms of arthritis because they occur in only one part of the body at a time. These conditions often start suddenly and usually stop within days or weeks.

    Other common forms of arthritis are ankylosing spondylitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, Reiter Syndrome and scleroderma.

Essential Self-Care for Arthritis

Most people with arthritis take an over-the-counter or prescription drugs to deal with the pain and stiffness caused by the condition.

Clearly taking arthritis medication is important, but what people do for themselves, including exercising, doing relaxation exercises and managing their emotions and attitudes is just as crucial to their ability to lead active, productive lives.

Adopting the following self-care steps into your daily routine can help you cope with the pain and stiffness of arthritis.

  • Exercising regularly. Daily flexibility and strengthening exercises help build and preserve muscle strength and protect joints from further stress.

  • Practicing pain and stress management techniques. Progressive muscle relaxation, in which you lie down and relax one set of muscles at a time, is especially helpful.

  • Applying moist heat and cold packs. Heat can ease chronic pain, while cold applications are usually best for severe pain experienced during flare-ups.

  • Eating a healthful diet. Excess weight can stress joints. If you're 10 or more pounds over-weight, try to slim down.

    Vitamin C may help repair cartilage and omega 3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation.

  • Protecting your joints. Ask a physical therapist to teach you how to use your joints.

  • Trying other home remedies and alternative methods after getting your doctor's approval. These might include taking glucosamine supplements, having a massage or trying acupuncture.

Range-of-Motion Exercises

If you have arthritis, do these exercises twice daily to maintain your range of motion.

As you do them:

  • Move in a slow, steady manner; don't bounce.

  • Breathe regularly.

  • Do each exercise 5 to 10 times.

  • Stop and consult your doctor or physical therapist if you feel extreme discomfort or pain.


Lie on your back. Raise one arm over your head, keeping your elbow straight. Keep the arm close to your ear. Return it slowly to your side. Repeat with your other arm.


With your head down, place your hands behind your head. Move your elbows back as far as you can while moving your head back. Return to starting position and repeat.


Lie on your back with your legs straight and six inches apart. With your foot flexed, slide your leg out to the side, then slide it back to the starting position. Repeat with your other leg.


Lie on your back with your legs straight and six inches apart. Keep your feet flexed. Roll your hips and knees in and out, keeping your knees straight.


Lie on your back with one knee bent and the other straight. Bend the knee of the straight leg and bring it toward the chest. Push the leg out straight into the air, then lower it to the floor. Repeat with the other leg.

For More Information

Arthritis Foundation, call 800-283-7800, or visit

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, call 877-22-NIAMS or visit

ATTENTION: Information delivered through Vitality-on-Demand(TM) is the opinion of the sourced authors and organizations. Personal decisions regarding health, diet, exercise or other matters should be made only after consultation with the reader's own medical and professional advisers. This material MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED FOR REDISTRIBUTION without written permission from Vitality®.


© 2011 Krames StayWell 2011. The information in this newsletter is intended to be used as a general guideline and should not replace the advice of your doctor. Always consult your doctor for personal decisions. Models used for illustrative purposes only. Material may not be reproduced without written permission from StayWell Custom Communications.