The biggest risk in exercising when you have osteoarthritis is exercising too much. You should not start an exhausting or overly strenuous exercise program. Doing so will cause more damage. Instead, start at a low level and progress slowly to avoid joint injury. Starting at a low level of intensity also prevents you from overexerting yourself. You should still be able to breathe and speak normally while doing the activity. Avoid overheating as well. Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercising. Also slow down your pace if you need a break. Never stop suddenly.

When should I stop exercising?

If you feel joint pain during exercise - stop. If your pain lasts for 2 hours or more after activity, rest and take an over-the-counter pain medication as needed until your pain goes away. If you have pain for more than a day or so, see your doctor. You should contact your doctor if your exercise causes any of the following:

  • chest pain or shortness of breath
  • unusual or chronic fatigue
  • increased weakness
  • decreased range of motion in a joint
  • increased swelling of a joint
  • pain that lasts for more than a day or so, or if the pain gets worse instead of better

Be sure to check with your doctor or other member of your arthritis treatment team before starting any type of exercise program. You may want to talk with a physical therapist or other exercise professional about recommendations for the most appropriate exercises for you.