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Don’t Stop, Just Adapt: The best types of exercise for seniors with arthritis

18 May, 2020

If you have joint inflammation, it’s important to keep moving as much as you can. Here’s why - and how - with our guide to exercises for arthritis.

According to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW), 1 in 7 Australians have some form of arthritis. Among those over 65, that figure sharply rises to over 50%. There are many different kinds of arthritis - in fact, over 100. These medical conditions affect the musculoskeletal system, specifically joints where two or more bones meet.

Due to the inflammation, pain and various limitations associated with such conditions, The AIHW says that 1 in 5 Australians with arthritis have experienced high levels of psychological distress. Focus Care is here to reassure you that you can still enjoy a fulfilling, independent life, even with an arthritis diagnosis .

Want to know the best arthritis natural remedies? The secret is often exercise.

Why is exercise so vital for seniors with arthritis?

The treatment of arthritis is not a cure, and so this means that the majority of work you can do to improve your situation is to help you manage the symptoms.

Exercise for seniors in general improves your overall health and fitness. It might seem as though it could make your symptoms worse, but in reality, the worst thing you can do is sit still. People with arthritis should be encouraged to move, to avoid causing the joints to be even more stiff. However, this should not be overly strenuous.

Keeping muscles and tissue strong actually helps you to relieve some of the stress on your joints, because support for your bones then stays maintained.

Arthritis exercises for seniors have many physical benefits

Interventions of people with osteoarthritis often reveal that engaging in exercise for osteoarthritis actually has significant benefits.

Here are the key reasons why gentle exercises are so important for older people with arthritis.

  • You’ll strengthen the muscles around your joints

  • You will be able to maintain a full range of motion in your joints

  • You can maintain bone strength

  • Exercise maintains a healthy body weight

  • You’ll improve your balance

There are mental benefits of arthritis exercises for seniors too

According to research, many people who are told they have arthritis assume that things are only going to get worse. This is simply not the case, and you can regain some control of your situation. To help you remain positive, the mental benefits of arthritis exercises include:

  • An enhanced quality of life

  • Reduced fatigue and energy depletion

  • A better night’s sleep

  • A sense of purpose

  • Determination and independence

Elderly couple walking in nature. Exercise for arthritis - Focus CareWhat are the best types of exercises for arthritis?

There are many different kinds of exercises that you can do if you have arthritis.


Walking is a fantastic exercise for joint pain. It is low impact and it gets your blood pumping. You can go at your own pace, and work up a little more each day.

It’s an aerobic exercise that is easy to integrate into your everyday life, and is especially beneficial for those requiring exercises for arthritis in the knees.

Water activities

Swimming and other gentle exercise in the water is fantastic because it relieves pressure on your joints. A water aerobics class can be a fun way to step it up a little.

Hip and arthritis exercises

We spoke to Elka, a qualified Personal Trainer in Queensland. She talked us through hip flexor stretches. One of these is the “pigeon pose”.  This involves bringing one foot up - if you can - and resting it on the opposite thigh, and then stretching forward. This releases the tension in the sciatic nerve.

Spinal stretches also work well. For these, cross your legs and gently twist to one side, then on the other side. After one leg has been on the top, cross your legs the other way, and repeat.

Arthritis exercises for hands and wrists

Synovial joint renewal exercises are brilliant, especially if you are restricted in mobility. For example, you can rotate your wrists in circles. You should do this for about 60 seconds.

You can also try “flossing”. No, this isn’t a dance move that your grandchildren may have told you about! Simply stretch out your arm with your fingers face down and your palm facing away from you. Then, gently pull your fingers towards you and “floss” - move your wrist from side to side.

If you do these exercises and hear a crack, don’t worry. This is just old synovial joint fluid being replaced with new fluid.

Light weights

Building up your muscles gently is important if you have arthritis. You can start with very light weights, and keep things modest.

You don’t need to exert yourself. Even some basic bicep curls with things you have around the house can help.

Arthritis exercises you can do in bed

If you are limited with your mobility, or even just first thing in the morning, stretching before getting out of bed really helps reduce pain.

Bring your knees up to your chest, and gently rock from side to side.

Range of motion exercises that are perfect for arthritis

Such exercises relieve stiffness and are named for the fact that they’re designed to help move joints through their full range of motion. They may involve just simple movements such as rolling your shoulders back and forward or raising your arms above your head.

These exercises might include movements such as raising your arms over your head or rolling your shoulders forward and backward. In most cases, these exercises can be done daily.

Guidelines for exercising with arthritis

Before you begin a new exercise regime, you should consider speaking to a doctor or other professional, such as a Personal Trainer. Everybody’s personal limitations will be different, and we must take this into consideration. If you push yourself too hard, you may cause more damage.

  • Apply heat to relax your joints before you get started

  • Keep impact low

  • Go slowly

  • Move gently

  • Ice your joints afterwards to reduce swelling

Exercise with rheumatoid arthritis should be considered even more carefully. If you’re having a flare-up, exercise for rheumatoid arthritis should be kept very simple.

Elderly man supported by care worker holding a ball. Exercise for arthritis, Focus CareHow can Focus Care help seniors with arthritis?

At Focus Care, our team is committed to helping clients improve their quality of life. Our Support Workers can help you in your own home to manage many of the duties which may be causing you discomfort or pain.

When designing your Support Plan with your Focus Care Manager, speak to them about how to integrate physical exercise into the services you receive as part of your Home Care Package.

Your Care Manager might also arrange for an Occupational Therapy assessment, which can help keep you mobile and independent for longer.

For information about exercises for people living with dementia, please read our guide to activities for people with dementia.

To find out more, please call 1300 941 750 or contact us by clicking here.

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