Workouts and nutrition for arthritis - Everything you need to know

 Workouts and nutrition for arthritis - Everything you need to know!


        Arthritis is a serious and insidious disease that affects the joints. Unfortunately, nowadays it is widespread and does not affect only the elderly. Many young people have difficulty performing their daily tasks in the presence of this disease.

     But what is arthritis and can you deal with its symptoms by changing your diet and physical activity? Before answering this question, let's see what is the essence of the disease…

What is arthritis?

      Arthritis is an inflammation of the tissues around the joints, leading to swelling, stiffness, difficulty moving and severe stabbing pain. There are over 100 types of arthritis, but the most common are two:

Osteoarthritis - a degenerative disease characterized by wear and tear of the cartilage of the joints, which causes pain, swelling and problems with joint movement.


Rheumatoid arthritis - an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, pain, decreased mobility and degeneration of cartilage.

Rheumatoid arthritis

It is believed that there is no cure for the various forms of arthritis, except for light massages of the joints, which have no particular effect. Most doctors prohibit sports and strain on the affected joints, thus atrophy the muscles and complicate the problem.

But does that mean you have to end your workouts and come to terms with a sedentary lifestyle?

Of course not!

Neglect of this type of disease can lead to more serious problems, such as affecting more joints or even organs. Therefore, you should not find yourself in such a situation for a long time.

By the end of the article I will show you which are the most appropriate exercises for arthritis, what eating habits you need to build and which supplements can relieve joint pain.

My advice will be focused mainly on training, because it is extremely important not to allow your muscles to atrophy and keep them in good shape.

So let's get started

Training and physical activity in arthritis

1. What workouts are right for you?

   If the word "fitness" has been taboo for you so far and doctors have advised you not to do any serious physical activity, it's time to rethink your approach.

Until a few years ago, the recommendation was to limit exercise, but it has already been proven that strength training is an important element in drug-free therapy.

The reason is that strength exercises provide protection for the affected joints, reduce muscle weakness, have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects and improve overall health.

I recommend that you focus on fitness training with moderate to high intensity. They are very effective in people with arthritis and are well-tolerated methods for increasing muscle mass and strength.

Do strength exercises for all muscle groups, but focus mostly on the muscles around the affected joints. This will help strengthen and stabilize them.

Of course, it's not a good idea to take unnecessary risks. If your inflammation has worsened, reduce or stop training altogether for a few days. Safety always comes first. Your goal is simply to strengthen your joints and improve your overall health.

2. Is there a risk of strength training to damage your joints?

   According to a study conducted in the United States , strength training in people with rheumatoid arthritis does not worsen the disease or cause additional pain. ( source )

Remember, however, that pre-workout warm-ups and post-workout stretching are key (more on them later). It is even appropriate to do warm-up movements at home several times a day to maintain good joint mobility.

It is sometimes possible to have pain in the affected joint after a workout, but in most cases this is not a cause for concern. If the pain increases up to 2 hours after training, it is better to rest for 2-3 days (or until the pain subsides).

3. How long should the training last?

If you are a complete beginner and have been inactive for a long time, start with short training sessions of 10-15 minutes. Add 5 minutes every 2 weeks.

Over time, your body will naturally adjust to normal workouts, which last about 30-45 minutes. This includes only strength training (excluding warm-ups, cardio and stretching).

4. How to start your workout?

     Always start with a warm-up. It is an important element of any workout because it prepares the joints, muscles and cardiovascular system for the upcoming load. This significantly reduces the risk of injuries, trauma and pain. Here are some practical warm-up tips:

Start with 5-6 minutes of low-intensity cardio. You need to sweat a little. This shows that your body is ready!

Then continue to warm up, making circular motions for all major joints - shoulder joints, elbows, wrists, knees and ankles. Also include waist twists , hip mobilization and leg swings . Do approximately 10-15 repetitions in each direction.

The whole warm-up should last 8-10 minutes.

5. What strength exercises to include?

     I want to remind you once again to focus on the muscles around the affected joints, and then move on to the other muscle groups. The break between exercises and repetitions is 90 seconds for beginners and 30-60 seconds for more advanced.

Here's what a workout for beginners with arthritis might look like:

  • Pushing a chest muscle machine
  • Pulling a vertical pulley in front of the chest
  • Triceps extension of the upper pulley with a handle
  • Biceps flexion of the lower pulley from a standing position
  • Shoulder presses with standing dumbbells
  • Femoral unfolding machine
  • Femoral folding machine
  • Gluteus bridge with own weight
  • Abdominal presses from reverse inclination
  • Lifting the legs from the leg

From the upper body exercises do 3 sets of 15 repetitions, and from the lower body exercises do 3 sets of 12 repetitions.

If you feel pain in the affected joint, stop the exercise and replace it with another that loads the same muscle group. The idea is not to load the diseased joint, but to strengthen the muscles around it, which will protect you from future complications.

6. Do you need to increase the weights?

    It is important to increase the weights and loads over time. If you stand on the same weights for a long period of time, your body will adapt and you will lose the meaning of the workout.

Let's say that for the triceps extension exercise on the upper pulley you do 3 sets of 12 repetitions with 5 kg. It's been a month since you started and this burden is light for you. Therefore, increase the load as follows:

  • 1st series: 12 repetitions with 5 kg
  • 2nd series: 12 repetitions with 5 kg
  • 3rd series: 12 repetitions now with 7.5 / 10 kg

Increase again next week:

  • 1 series with 5 kg
  • 2 series with 7.5 / 10 kg
  • 3 series with 7.5 / 10 kg

And next week already do 3 sets of 7.5 / 10 kg. In this way you will increase the load progressively and absolutely safely.

7. How intense should you train?

    Feel your body - let it give you a guide and help you assess the intensity. The pain will be in different places in each of you, with different palpability.

Just remember that if you are experiencing pain in the area affected by arthritis (I'm talking about pain in the joint, not the muscles around the joint), then you better stop doing this exercise.

8. How often to train?

     It is important to be active most days of the week, but do not overdo it. Start the first weeks with 2 workouts, then increase to 3 and so on until you reach 4 workouts per week. They will be enough to stimulate the muscles and restore the metabolism and vital functions of your body.

I want to note that you need at least 1 month to train 3 times a week for your body to get used to it. When you switch to 4 training days, divide your workouts into upper and lower.

For example, on Monday and Thursday you can train the upper part (chest, back, shoulder and arms), and on Tuesday and Friday - the lower part (thighs, buttocks and calf). Never include more than 2 consecutive training days.

9. What type of cardio is best for arthritis?

Aerobic training (cardio) can be practiced in conjunction with strength training. If you are in very bad shape, you can initially use cardio even as an alternative, but in the long run you should focus on strength training to strengthen the joints and protect yourself from future problems.

Choose an aerobic workout that does not overload the joints. Cycling (on a bicycle or ergometer), walking (outside or on a path), swimming, cross trainer and stepper are suitable.

Avoid jogging, jumping rope, skiing and group activities in gyms - zumba, tae bo, kango jumps, etc. I do not recommend this type of activity due to the high load on their joints.

10. How to finish your workout?

     Finish with stretching, because it will increase the flexibility and range of motion of the joints. It also reduces muscle fever after a workout.

Stretching should not be longer than 10-15 minutes. Focus on the muscles you trained during the workout. You can learn more about the various stretching exercises here.

Nutrition and nutritional supplements for arthritis

Nutrition  for arthritis

If you eat properly, you will keep your weight within normal limits, build healthy cartilage and reduce inflammation, which is important in people with arthritis. Here are some tips:

  1.  Eat more fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants.
  2. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation in the body.
  3. Get enough vitamin C - it is needed for the production of collagen and connective tissue.
  4. Limit inflammatory foods - harmful fats (cheap oils and trans fats), sugar and pasta.
  5. The ketogenic diet is a suitable alternative ( as long as you are familiar with this diet ) due to its anti-inflammatory action.
  6. Drink enough water - it is extremely important for the health of joints and cartilage.
  7. Avoid cigarettes and excessive alcohol consumption.

Supplements that would have a positive effect on your condition are chondroitin and glucosamine , hyaluronic acid, collagen (in larger doses - 2 grams per day), vitamin D , calcium and magnesium .


As you can see, arthritis is a serious disease that you should not underestimate. This type of joint disease is very persistent and you need to arm yourself with patience until the muscles are completely healed and the joint is strengthened.

But even a little exercise for a short period of time can lead to great progress. And for even better results, pay attention to nutrition, adequate nutrient intake and rest time.

Use the improvement in your condition as motivation to move forward. The most important thing is to start a more active lifestyle

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