6 Expert-Approved Exercises for Joints

Arthritis, Featured Article, Healthy Aging, Healthy Living
on March 25, 2013
Exercises for joint health.

When you ache from arthritis, movement doesn’t seem like a welcoming option. “But if you don’t exercise painful joints, range-of-motion becomes limited, and you have more pain,” says Joy Prouty, director of education, programs and training for Zumba Fitness and a consultant for the Harvard Health Joint Pain Relief Workout. “When you move, blood flows to the joint, restoring range of motion, and strengthening the muscles and connective tissue.”

RELATED: The Best Exercises for Your Joints

The good news: You don’t have to sign up with a gym to do these exercises for joints. These moves, based on the Harvard Joint Pain Relief Workout, can be performed almost anywhere.

Heel-Toe Taps

Why do them: To strengthen the muscles in the shin.

The exercise: Feet on the floor, tap the toes on one foot as if you are tapping to music.  Do each foot for 30 seconds.

Knee Extensions

Why do them: To build up the quadriceps muscles that support the knees.

The exercise: Sit in a chair, feet on the floor. Straighten one leg so it’s parallel to the floor. Lower the leg; repeat with the opposite leg. Do 10-15 with each leg.

Side Leg Lift

Why do them: To strengthen hip muscles.

The exercise: Stand up straight, facing and holding onto a counter. Lift your leg to the side, keeping your hips and shoulders straight ahead. Do 10-15 times with each leg.

Shoulder Circles

Why do them: These keep mobility in your shoulder joint, says Josie Gardiner, a fitness consultant and co-author of the Harvard Health Joint Pain Relief Workout.  (She suggests doing them every day after a warm shower.)

The exercise: Stand with your feet slightly apart. Bring your left hand to your left thigh, bend slightly in the torso so your right hand is slightly ahead of you. Then draw your right arm in circles, doing eight to 10 circles one way, then eight to 10 in reverse. Repeat with the other arm.

Wrist Curls

Why do them: To relieve tension in the elbow and increase blood flow, strength and mobility in the wrists, which get tight if you have arthritis in the wrists and fingers, says Gardiner.

The exercise: Make fists, then flex your wrists up and down eight to 10 times.

Piano Fingers

Why do them: To loosen up stiff hands (Gardiner suggests doing this move in the morning after soaking hands in warm water).

The exercise: Pretend your fingers are playing the piano, then spread your fingers apart like jazz hands.