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The Best Exercises for Seniors with Arthritis to Maintain Mobility

Arthritis, a prevalent and impactful condition among seniors, imposes significant challenges on their daily lives, causing debilitating pain and restricted mobility. As family caregivers, we recognize the crucial role of exercise in managing arthritis symptoms and preserving overall well-being. 

Encouraging and supporting our loved ones in adopting tailored exercise routines can not only alleviate discomfort but also empower them to lead active and fulfilling lives. In this discussion, we explore the profound effects of arthritis and the transformative potential of exercise, aiming to equip caregivers with the tools and knowledge to navigate this journey with compassion and effectiveness, fostering enhanced well-being for those battling arthritis.

Benefits of Exercise for Arthritis

Regular exercise offers numerous benefits for individuals with arthritis, which family caregivers can facilitate and support:

  • Reduction of Joint Pain and Stiffness: Encouraging and assisting seniors in maintaining a regular exercise routine can effectively reduce joint pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. By promoting gentle exercises such as walking, swimming, or tai chi, caregivers can help seniors improve joint flexibility and ease discomfort.
  • Improvement in Flexibility: Engaging seniors in stretching exercises tailored to their abilities can significantly enhance flexibility and range of motion in their joints. Family caregivers can guide seniors through stretching routines, ensuring proper technique and gradual progression to prevent injury and improve mobility.
  • Increase in Strength: Family caregivers can incorporate strength training exercises into seniors’ exercise routines to build muscle strength and stability around the affected joints. Simple resistance exercises using light weights or resistance bands can help seniors improve overall strength, reducing the strain on their joints and enhancing physical function.
  • Boost in Energy Levels: Encouraging seniors to participate in regular physical activity can boost their energy levels and combat fatigue associated with arthritis. Family caregivers can motivate seniors to engage in enjoyable activities such as gardening, dancing, or gentle yoga, promoting a sense of vitality and well-being.

In addition to physical benefits, exercise plays a vital role in supporting seniors’ mental health and overall well-being:

  • Reduction of Depression and Anxiety Symptoms: Family caregivers can observe and support seniors in maintaining a regular exercise routine as a means of reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety commonly experienced with arthritis. Participating in physical activity releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that help alleviate stress and improve mood, fostering a sense of well-being.
  • Enhancement of Overall Well-being: By incorporating exercise into seniors’ daily routines, family caregivers can contribute to their overall well-being and quality of life. Engaging in physical activity provides seniors with a sense of accomplishment and empowerment, enhancing their self-esteem and promoting a positive outlook on life despite the challenges of arthritis.

Through ongoing encouragement, support, and participation in physical activity with seniors, family caregivers can play a crucial role in managing arthritis symptoms, improving physical function, and promoting mental well-being, ultimately enhancing the overall health and quality of life of their loved ones.

Recommended Exercises for Seniors with Arthritis

Water Aerobics

Description: Water aerobics utilize the resistance of water to provide a low-impact workout, reducing stress on joints. Classes include walking, jogging, and arm exercises performed in chest-deep water.


  • Improves joint flexibility and reduces pain: The buoyancy of water supports the body, reducing the impact on joints and allowing for smoother movements. This gentle resistance helps to improve flexibility and alleviate pain associated with conditions such as arthritis or joint injuries.
  • Increases cardiovascular fitness: Water aerobics offer an excellent cardiovascular workout without the strain on the heart and lungs that can come with traditional aerobic exercises. The resistance of the water adds an extra challenge, helping to strengthen the heart and improve overall cardiovascular health.
  • Suitable for all fitness levels: Whether you’re a beginner looking to ease into exercise or an experienced athlete recovering from an injury, water aerobics can be tailored to suit your individual fitness level. Instructors can adjust the intensity of exercises and provide modifications to accommodate participants with varying abilities.


  • Join classes designed for arthritis patients.
  • Wear supportive swimwear and consider flotation devices.


Walking is a simple, weight-bearing exercise that can be adapted to individual fitness levels. It helps maintain bone density, improve joint health, and boost mood.


  • Enhances cardiovascular health: Walking regularly can significantly improve cardiovascular health by strengthening the heart, lowering blood pressure, and improving circulation. It’s a great way to increase your heart rate and get your blood pumping without the high impact associated with more intense exercises.
  • Supports healthy weight and bone density: Walking is an effective form of exercise for managing weight and promoting bone health. It helps burn calories, which can contribute to weight loss or weight maintenance, and it also helps to maintain bone density by stimulating bone growth and strengthening bones through weight-bearing activity.
  • Boosts mood and mental well-being: Walking has been shown to have numerous mental health benefits, including reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. The rhythmic motion of walking, combined with exposure to natural scenery or simply being outdoors, can have a calming effect on the mind and help improve overall mood and mental well-being.


  • Use supportive shoes and start with short walks.
  • Walk on flat, even surfaces and use walking aids if necessary.

“Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”

Thomas Jefferson

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a gentle martial art focusing on slow, controlled movements, balance, and relaxation. It improves flexibility, reduces stress, and enhances mental clarity.


  • Improves balance, flexibility, and strength: Tai Chi involves a series of flowing, deliberate movements that require stability, coordination, and controlled muscle engagement. By practicing Tai Chi regularly, individuals can improve their balance, flexibility, and overall strength, which can help reduce the risk of falls and injuries, especially in older adults.
  • Reduces stress and promotes relaxation: The slow, rhythmic movements of Tai Chi, combined with focused breathing techniques and mindful awareness, promote a state of relaxation and inner calm. This meditative aspect of Tai Chi can help reduce stress, anxiety, and tension, while also improving mood and promoting a sense of well-being.
  • Suitable for all fitness levels: One of the great advantages of Tai Chi is its accessibility to people of all ages and fitness levels. The gentle, low-impact nature of Tai Chi makes it an ideal form of exercise for individuals with various health conditions or physical limitations. Tai Chi can be adapted to accommodate different abilities, allowing everyone to experience its benefits.


  • Attend classes tailored for seniors or arthritis patients.
  • Start with basic movements and progress gradually.


Regular stretching maintains joint flexibility, reduces stiffness, and relieves pain. It improves posture, reduces muscle imbalances, and promotes relaxation.


  • Enhances range of motion and reduces pain: Stretching exercises target muscles and connective tissues, helping to increase flexibility and mobility in joints. By regularly stretching, individuals can improve their range of motion, which can alleviate stiffness and reduce the risk of injury. Additionally, stretching can help alleviate muscle tension and discomfort, leading to a reduction in pain and discomfort.
  • Improves posture and muscle balance: Poor posture and muscle imbalances can contribute to a variety of musculoskeletal issues, including back pain and neck strain. Stretching helps to lengthen tight muscles and release tension, which can improve posture and restore balance to the body. By addressing muscle imbalances through targeted stretching exercises, individuals can reduce the risk of injury and enhance overall physical alignment.
  • Promotes relaxation and stress relief: Stretching is not only beneficial for the body but also for the mind. Engaging in stretching exercises can promote relaxation and reduce stress by helping to release endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones. The rhythmic, controlled movements involved in stretching can have a calming effect on the nervous system, helping to soothe both the body and the mind.


  • Stretch daily, focusing on gentle stretches.
  • Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds and breathe deeply.

Strength Training

Strength training with light weights or resistance bands builds muscle, supports joint health, and improves function. It increases metabolism, boosts confidence, and promotes independence.


  • Increases muscle strength and joint stability: Strength training involves working against resistance to build muscle mass and increase strength. By engaging in regular strength training exercises, individuals can strengthen muscles throughout the body, leading to improved joint stability and better overall function. Stronger muscles provide better support for the joints, reducing the risk of injury and enhancing mobility.
  • Supports joint health and function: Contrary to common misconception, strength training can actually be beneficial for joint health when performed with proper form and technique. Strengthening the muscles around the joints helps to stabilize them and reduce stress on the surrounding tissues. This can alleviate joint pain and stiffness, improve range of motion, and enhance overall joint function, making everyday activities easier and more comfortable.
  • Boosts metabolism and self-confidence: Strength training has been shown to increase metabolism, leading to more efficient calorie burning and potential weight loss or maintenance. Additionally, as individuals progress in their strength training regimen and notice improvements in their strength and physical appearance, their confidence and self-esteem often receive a boost. Feeling stronger and more capable can have a positive impact on overall we


  • Start with light resistance and progress gradually.
  • Focus on slow, controlled movements to avoid joint stress.

Tips for Exercising with Arthritis

Here are the tips for family caregivers supporting their loved ones with arthritis in exercising:

  • Importance of Warming Up and Cooling Down: Encourage your loved one to incorporate warm-up and cool-down routines into their exercise regimen. Warming up prepares the body for physical activity, reducing stiffness and lowering the risk of injury. Cooling down helps the body gradually return to its resting state, preventing muscle soreness and promoting recovery.
  • Listening to One’s Body: Remind your loved one to listen to their body during exercise. While some discomfort is normal, they should avoid activities that cause sharp or persistent pain beyond normal muscle fatigue. Encourage them to communicate any discomfort or concerns, and support them in modifying or avoiding activities that exacerbate joint pain.
  • Consulting with Healthcare Providers or Physical Therapists: Advocate for your loved one to consult with their healthcare provider or a physical therapist before starting any exercise program. These professionals can assess their specific needs and limitations, providing guidance on suitable exercises and modifications to accommodate arthritis symptoms. Supporting your loved one in tailoring their exercises ensures safety and effectiveness, helping them to maximize benefits while minimizing the risk of exacerbating joint pain or injury.

Additional Supportive Activities

Incorporating Mindfulness Practices

Encourage your loved one to incorporate mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or guided imagery into their daily routine. These activities can help reduce stress, improve mental clarity, and enhance overall well-being, complementing their exercise regimen.

Engaging in Social Activities

Encourage your loved one to participate in social activities that they enjoy, such as joining clubs, attending community events, or spending time with friends and family. Social interaction can provide emotional support, reduce feelings of isolation, and contribute to a sense of belonging and fulfillment.

Emphasizing a Healthy Diet

Highlight the importance of maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. A balanced diet can help manage arthritis symptoms by reducing inflammation, supporting joint health, and providing essential nutrients for overall well-being. Encourage your loved one to consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare provider for personalized dietary recommendations tailored to their specific needs and preferences.


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