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Best exercises for arthritis

The National Health Service (NHS) says that over 10 million people in the UK have some form of arthritis. Thankfully, arthritis is manageable with the right exercises and treatment. . This blog will take you through what arthritis is and what exercises you can do for different joints where people get arthritis.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is not a single disease but rather a group of conditions characterised by pain and inflammation in the joints. When one or more joints become inflamed because of arthritis, it causes pain and stiffness. The pain can be mild or severe and may affect one joint or many throughout the body. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

1. Arthritis in wrists & hands

It’s estimated that nearly 6% of people aged 45 years and above have sought hand and wrist arthritis treatment. The following exercises are designed to help improve the range of motion in your wrists and hands, reducing pain and stiffness.

  • Wrist extension stretch

To perform this exercise, stand or sit on a flat surface. Rest your forearm on a table or other flat surface with your palm facing down and your hands hanging freely facing down. Place a weight in the hand of your affected arm, always keeping your elbow against the side of your body. Slowly lift the weight up toward your shoulder, making sure not to let it swing back down and forward again before it’s raised all the way up. Repeat 10-15 times per session, three times per day if possible.

  • Hand therapy ball squeeze

This exercise is great for people with mild to moderate arthritis in their wrists. It helps improve hand function, strength, and range of motion. You’ll need a hand therapy ball or a tennis ball to do this exercise. You can find these at most pharmacies or online. Sit at the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent at 90-degree angles (like you’re sitting on a bike). Place the ball in your hand and squeeze it gently as hard as possible for 10 seconds. Release slowly as far as you can without dropping the ball out of your hand. and repeat this 15 times for each hand!

2. Arthritis in ankles & feet

There are many exercises that can help improve your ankle and foot strength and flexibility for reduced pain and improve mobility. Here are some exercises that can benefit people with arthritis in the ankles and feet:

  • Big toe stretch

Place your right foot on your left knee. Grasp the big toe with your other hand and pull it gently back until you feel a stretch in the arch of your foot. Hold for around 5 to 10 seconds, then relax for about 20 seconds before repeating three more times on each foot.

  • Marble pickup

Pick up marbles using your toes and place them on a tray or a table. This exercise will help strengthen your toes and improve their flexibility, which can be especially helpful if you have a limited range of motion or pain in your feet.

3. Arthritis in hips & knees

If you have arthritis in your hips or knees, aerobic exercises can help you manage pain and stiffness. Aerobic exercises, also called cardio exercises, not only get your heart rate up, but they also help with fexibility. Some of these exercises include:

  • Walking

Walking can be a great aerobic exercise when you have arthritis in your knees or hips. It’s low impact so it won’t put too much stress on your joints. You can walk outside or on an indoor treadmill.

  • Biking

Biking is another great option if you’re looking for an aerobic activity that’s low impact and still gets your heart rate up. Riding a bike improves strength and endurance in the muscles around your knees and hips, which helps reduce pain from arthritis over time.

  • Yoga

Yoga helps improve flexibility and balance while strengthening muscles around joints affected by arthritis. It’s also a great stress reliever!

It’s important to remember that arthritis is not an inevitable degenerative disease. Instead, it is an affliction that comes and goes, depending on your habits and behaviours. If you keep up a good diet, exercise daily, and avoid known triggers, you can reduce the pain and symptoms of arthritis. Speak with your doctor before beginning an exercise routine to discuss the best options for you.

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