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10 Best Exercises To Manage Arthritis

Regular exercise is key in managing and preventing arthritis.

Arthritis can be a total pain in the neck—and we mean that quite literally. Chronic arthritis can severely impact your hands, joints, legs, and arms, making day-to-day tasks extremely challenging if not impossible. Eat This, Not That! spoke with Dr. Amit Poonia, M.D., a pain management specialist at, the Interventional Pain Management and Ortho-Spine Center, and are here with the 10 best exercises you can do to manage arthritis.

"Regular exercise is an important part of both managing and preventing arthritis, as it strengthens muscles supporting your joints, helps maintain bone density, and can ease swelling and pain," Dr. Poonia explains. "It also facilitates the renewal of lubrication to the joint cartilage, thereby alleviating stiffness and discomfort."

In addition, engaging in regular physical activity can be very helpful in weight management, which can alleviate added pressure or pain in your joints and muscles.

Keep reading to learn Dr. Poonia's top-recommended exercises to manage arthritis. And when you're finished, check out Does Lifting Weights Burn More Fat Than Cardio?

Toe Reach

This first exercise involves reaching for your toes. It will help increase flexibility while reducing any stiffness.

Start in a seated position with your legs extended. Next, stretch out your arms toward your toes as far as possible. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds, then release and relax.

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Heel / Toe Lifts

"This exercise aims to help with pain affecting your ankles, feet, and toes," Dr. Poonia explains. "It offers a range of movement that will help with the flexibility and stiffness in these joints and muscles."

Begin in a seated position on the edge of a chair with both feet firmly on the floor. Lift your heels while keeping your toes on the ground. Next, lift your toes, and hold this position for three seconds before lowering to the floor.

Strengthening Grip

The strengthening grip is important to keep your hands functioning properly and flexible.

You will need a hand-exercise ball for this one. Put the ball centered in one of your hands, and wrap your fingers around the ball. Squeeze hard for five seconds, and then release.

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Finger Lifts

Since you constantly use your fingers and hands, keeping them in top shape is essential.

Lay your hand flat onto a table or flat surface. Lift one of your fingers slowly for two seconds, and then lower it back to the table. Do this exercise on each finger.

Neck Rotation

The neck rotation is beneficial in releasing head, shoulder, and neck tension.

You can do this exercise while standing or sitting with your back straight. Make sure your chin is level as you turn your head to gaze over your left shoulder. Hold this position for five seconds, and then return to the center position. Repeat on the other side. Perform this five times on each side.

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illustration of step-ups

The step-up helps you stretch and maintain mobility in your lower body. This is necessary in daily tasks, such as climbing stairs.

Start at the bottom of a staircase holding onto the railing. You can also use a step platform. Step your left foot onto the step or platform, then your right foot. Next, bring your left foot back down from the step, followed by your right foot. Do this exercise 10 to 15 times.

Straight Leg Raises

single leg raise

"By doing this exercise, you are strengthening the muscles under the kneecap which will help you to remain functional," says Dr. Poonia.

Start by lying flat on your back on your bed or floor, with your legs straight out. Bend your right knee, keeping that foot flat on the floor. You can also leave it extended. Slowly lift your left leg around 10 inches into the air, and hold this position for two to three seconds. Then, slowly lower it back to the floor. Do this exercise 10 times on each leg.

Single Knee-to-Chest Stretch

Dr. Poonia tells us, "This exercise will help loosen your back, hip, and knee joints."

Lie down flat on your back with both knees bent and your feet planted on the ground. Grab your left knee with your hands, and softly pull it to your chest. Hold this position for 30 seconds, and then release. Alternate to your right knee, and repeat two to three times per side.

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Chair Stand

"This [exercise] will build muscle in your legs, and as they get stronger, you will be able to control the motion in your legs and will need to use your arms less for assistance," Dr. Poonia points out.

Begin seated in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly stand up, and then return to the seated position. Do this exercise 10 to 15 times.

Double Hip Rotation

"[The double hip rotation] helps with your flexibility, easing the stiffness in your hips and improving your ability to walk," Dr. Poonia explains.

Begin by slowly moving both knees to your right side, and then lower them to the ground. Next, rotate your head to the left side, keeping your shoulders on the ground. Stay in this position for 30 seconds prior to moving back to the center position. Repeat on your other side, moving your head to the right.

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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