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Is exercise good for arthritis? Best exercises for joint pain and what to avoid - as NHS to update advice

Some types of arthritis - or the drugs used to treat them - can also cause problems with your bones

New draft guidelines for the NHS have advised that exercise is good for people with wear-and-tear joint arthritis and should be a "core treatment".

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said although exercise may hurt to begin with, it can then ease pain and help those with osteoarthritis stay supple and healthy.

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Some types of arthritis - or the drugs used to treat them - can also cause problems with your bones

But is exercise good for arthritis?

Here’s what you need to know.

Is exercise good for arthritis?

The NHS website explains that if your arthritis is painful, although you may not feel like exercising, being active can help reduce and prevent pain.

Regular exercise can also:

  • improve your range of movement and joint mobility
  • increase muscle strength
  • reduce stiffness
  • boost your energy

The NHS said: “As long as you do the right type and level of exercise for your condition, your arthritis won’t get any worse.

“Combined with a healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise will help you lose weight and place less strain on your joints. Your GP can recommend the type and level of exercise that’s right for you.”

The Versus Arthritis website notes that for some types of arthritis, people may be at a higher risk of developing other conditions that affect the heart and lungs so it’s therefore important to do some general fitness exercises to help to improve your heart and lung health.

“Exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight, especially when combined with a balanced diet. Keeping to a healthy weight puts less strain on your joints, which can also reduce pain,” the arthritis charity added.

Versus Arthritis also says that some types of arthritis - or the drugs used to treat them - can cause problems with your bones, which can then lead to conditions like osteoporosis.

However, the charity explains that doing activity that puts weight through your bones helps to keep them strong, and balance exercises reduce the risk of falling, which in turn then reduces the risk of breaking bones easily.

What are the best exercises and what should I avoid?

The NHS said to help protect your joints, you should:

  • use larger, stronger joints as levers – for example, take the pressure of opening a heavy door on your shoulder rather than on your hand
  • use several joints to spread the weight of an object – for example, use both hands to carry your shopping or distribute the weight evenly by using a rucksack
  • don’t grip too tightly – grip as loosely as possible or use a padded handle to widen your grip

Versus Arthritis also has information and advice about exercising with arthritis and exercises to manage pain, including exercises for the toes, feet and ankles, the shoulders, the elbows, the neck, the knees, the back, the hips, and the fingers, hands and wrists.