People used to believe that exercise and arthritis were as compatible as oil and water. Yet research demonstrates that the opposite is true. Exercise can actually decrease joint pain and stiffness, and improve flexibility, mobility, mood and overall wellness for those with arthritis [source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention]. Though it can be intimidating for those with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia or lupus to begin exercising, when coupled with weight loss, it may be one of the best means for managing the disease, explains Patience White, M.D., M.A., vice president of public health at the Arthritis Foundation. Especially since people with arthritis are more likely to be overweight than not.
"Exercise keeps the muscles strong around a joint so that the mechanics works," explains White. "In the lower extremities, the knee is usually the first joint to experience pain for the 27 million people who suffer from osteoarthritis. If a person loses about 10 pounds and keeps exercising, they can cut the pain in their knees by about 50 percent and can even postpone a joint replacement."
But how does one begin? Before starting any exercise program, make sure it's OK with your physician. Find forms of exercise that are both low-impact -- such as biking, swimming and walking to help build strength -- and combine it with stretching, which improves joint function. "The government recommends that you do 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise five times a week for joint health," says White. "This can be in 10 minute increments, or you can do the recommended 10,000 steps daily."
Either way, read on to learn more about low-impact exercises you can incorporate into your daily routine.