How can strengthening and stretching help your arthritis?

13 November 2020
Lady stretching, a group doing stretching exercises and Leon from our Let's Move with Leon programme.

We’re continuing to adapt to different routines whether that’s our work, socialising or our exercise routine.

Keeping moving and making regular movement part of your week is important. By doing strength and stretching exercises you can help to boost your mood, increase mobility (which can help with daily tasks) and ease pain.

If you’re working from home, getting up regularly (every 15-30 minutes) from your workspace and screen is recommended to help avoid you being stuck in the same position all day. Read more about how to keep yourself healthy when working from home.

Benefits of strengthening and stretching

Strengthening and stretching exercises are beneficial as they:

  • are lower impact and won’t put excess stress on your joints
  • can help blood flow and improve circulation which can help boost energy levels and ease aches and pains
  • can be done at home and you don’t need special equipment
  • can done at a pace and time to suit you.

What type of exercises can you try?

Some people with arthritis find yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates helpful as they focus on gradual movement and muscle strength. They can be adapted to your needs and you can find lots of free resources online, for example:

If you do a class with an instructor, ask them for any modifications to exercises, if needed.

Nafisa’s story

Nafisa is 54 and has rheumatoid arthritis and she shares how starting gradually with exercise and regularly moving has helped her with her arthritis.

“Start gradually, even if you feel you can’t do it.”

I started with a stress ball, I used to do different exercises whilst I was watching TV. Then over time I could do a little more.

Motivation when you’re in pain is the hardest thing, rheumatoid or any pain is SOOO painful.

It can feel like broken bones, if you’re saying to someone to move more and you have this kind of pain – then you can be asking why?!

“When I noticed my body responding, it gave me motivation.”

I woke up with less pain in my fingers. I could pick up the phone quicker and put it to my ear in 3 seconds, before it took me 15-20 seconds.

I’ve started doing yoga again and I do gentle chair yoga. Yoga isn't just about the downward dog; I do slow movements and stretches.

Let’s Move with Leon is fantastic and there are different options to help you. When I saw the exercises where you had to get on the floor, I freaked out, but there are adaptations to make the movements work for you.

Learn to let go and breathe as part of any exercise, this can really help. If you hold your breath and tense your muscles, this restricts movement.

“My advice to others would be…”

  • Be aware of what your body can do and listen to what your body is telling you.
  • If you feel some days you need to move a little less, do it. You can do stretches in bed!
  • Believe it, movement won’t harm you.

If you are sat in a chair thinking you can’t do this, you can. As I was sat in a chair thinking the same.

Our Chester group gets connected

Peter Thompson is the chair of the Versus Arthritis Chester group and he tells us how the group have been keeping connected and active.

“We’re doing our chair exercises via the internet now”

We’ve tried to carry on the same as before COVID-19 by using email and the internet. Some of our members can’t connect to computers and so we’ve stayed in touch via the telephone.

We’ve heard from several older members, who’ve said the COVID situation is impacting on wellbeing and the winter weather is not helping.

“Chester Chatter is our virtual chair exercise class we run once week on Zoom and Facebook.”

Emma who did our face to face sessions runs these.

There’s lots of giggles and we have fun doing it together. Some people do it from Facebook and record it for later.

We do stretch and strengthening exercises, for example, lifting each leg at a different pace. We’re encouraged to get tins of anything from the cupboard and use these for arm exercises.

“My advice to others would be…”

  • Pace yourself and every bit of movement helps, whether it’s a little walk and it’s something else to occupy your mind.
  • It can be hard to motivate yourself on some days, try and stay on track.
  • Help each other and stay connected with your friends and loved ones.

We are here for you