Types of Exercises Most Suitable for Arthritic Patients


Six types of exercise are best for people with arthritis:-


      Range-of-motion and flexibility exercises (e.g., specific physiotherapy exercises, chi kung, certain martial arts such as Ba Gua and Tai Chi , hydrotherapy, swimming, dance) involve a range of motion while providing recreational leisure, help exercise normal joint movement and relieve stiffness. This type of exercise should allow the patient to extend or flex the movement of the body part to the fullest extent of movement possible. They help maintain or increase flexibility. Physiotherapy and chi kung exercises that have been specifically designed for fullest range of movement are the best choices. Chi kung, Ba Gua and Tai Chi also helps maintain good balance and gait.


      Joint rotational exercise (eg. specific physiotherapy exercises, chi kung, certain martial arts such as Ba Gua) involve a lot of joint exercises which promotes the flow of synovial fluids, strengthen the joints and prevent joint degeneration due to non-usage. They also help flexibility and range of motion. Joint rotational exercises should be very specific such as rotating and twisting the fingers, wrist, elbows, shoulders, hips, neck, knees and ankles, and flexing the joints. Tai Chi exercises do not involve as much extensive use of the joints as Ba Gua or certain chi kung exercises.


      Muscle and ligament strengthening exercises (e.g., mild weight training, specific physiotherapy exercises, chi kung, Ba Gua, Tai Chi, hydrotherapy, swimming, callisthenics, elastic bands, yoga) help increase muscle and ligament strength. Strong muscles and ligaments help support and protect joints affected by arthritis. Isometric exercises can be used to enhance muscle strength. Tai Chi, Chi Kung and Ba Gua, although seemingly mild in nature, are quite effective in strengthening and toning muscles on many joints and the major muscles of the body. Weight training and certain martial arts (eg. Shaolin Kungfu) also strengthens the bones in the case of osteoarthritis and osteporosis.


        Stretching exercises help with exercising the joints as well as stretching and relaxing the muscles and ligaments surrounding the joints. They allow the arthritic patient to return to a normal range of motion. They are many dozens of stretching exercises, and there are booklets of the proper ways to stretch as well as the wrong methods of stretch. Tai Chi is not a stretching exercise! The arthritic patient should stretch:-

  • all affected joints.
  • major joints of the body, such as the shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, thumbs, toes, etc.
  • major muscles and body parts, such as triceps, hamstring, calf, lumbar, buttocks, etc.


      Endurance training exercises (eg., bicycling, swimming, walking, exercising on equipment) help control weight which helps relieves the joints of the knees, ankles and hips of extra stress. Also facilitates range-of-motion and strengthens muscles and ligaments. These include activities that typically use the large muscles of the body in rhythmic and repetitive movements.


      Aerobic and deep breathing exercises can help reduce inflammation in some joints. Aerobic exercise improves heart, lung and muscle function. It also has benefits for weight control, mood and general health. Examples are aerobics routines, water aerobics, swimming etc.). Tai Chi, Chi Kung and Ba Gua, if practised properly, is a type of very low impact aerobics.



Most health clubs and community centres offer such similar exercise programs. A qualified physiotherapist would be an excellent resource to seek advice from.


All arthritic-relieving exercise programs should be specifically include adequate amounts of all the 6 types of exercises mentioned above. Arthritic-relieving exercises should be designed to specifically


There are many types of arthritis. Experienced doctors and health therapists should know specific exercises for particularly painful joints, and can recommend exercises that are particularly helpful for a specific type of arthritis.

(However, it might be prudent to research further and re-consider recommendations that the doctor has no personal experience in performing, but relies on recommendation of some colleagues or some health foundation)


Note 1:

Ba Gua is slightly more vigorous and strengthens the muscles and ligaments more than Tai Chi, and the turning and twisting movements of Ba Gua are very good for joint rotation. Those who do Tai Chi should (mandatory) include certain Chi Kung exercises that stress joint rotation and stretching.


Note 2:

If done incorrectly, exercises can cause muscle tears, pain, and joint swelling.




Written by John Chow, a practitioner of Chinese medicine, acupuncturist, masseur, healer and teacher of martial arts and spiritual paths in Melbourne, Australia.

Copyright:- No part of this article can be used, quoted, copied in any form without the permission from the author. For further information on this article, please contact John Chow at vajra_master@yahoo.com.


Legal caveat:-

The information provided above is for general reference only. Although the author(s) has attempted to be as thorough as possible in compiling the information in this article(s), no legal responsibility nor liability is accepted for any errors or omissions. The information is presented for educational purposes only. Please refer any medical matter to your doctor before acting on any health-related information.