Healthy Joints

Healthy joints: How can physical activity help?

One of the most common questions for those who suffer from joint pain is: what exercises can I do?

The simple answer is: you should aim to do as much physical activity as possible. You should aim for the recommended 150 minutes a week, but any activity is better than none. If anything hurts, ease up or stop.

If you want to get more active but struggle with joint pain, then there are plenty of resources to help. Despite common concerns that exercising may make pain worse, particularly for those who suffer from conditions such as Arthritis or other similar conditions, physical activity is a proven method of helping you manage and over time improve joint pain.

Living with joint pain: How can physical activity help?

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Build up strength in weaker joints

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Increase pain threshold and gradually experience less discomfort


Lose weight and put less strain on joints

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Increased confidence in your own abilities

For some, being active can be difficult due to chronic joint pain. The causes can vary but often revolves around joint related conditions such as Fibromyalgia or Arthritis.

Joint pain can also be down to factors such as poor posture, or even overuse of the joints. Both of these can occur at work. For information on how to improve your health in the workplace, check out the Active at Work section.

Join pain can also originate from injuries, from playing sports or everyday life. As all of these causes are different, it is important you inform your GP if you’re planning to take on a strenuous new exercise regime, so they can provide impartial advice.

Getting Started: Exercising with joint pain

Man stretching
Man experiencing joint pain

Whether you are looking to reduce your risk of developing joint issues further down the line, or you are already experiencing joint pain and are looking for ways to help manage this safely, physical activity is a fantastic tool when used correctly.

The body needs three ‘S’s to function properly. Suppleness, strength & stamina. The aim is to find an exercise level you can do on both good and bad days, so you should see more gradual results over time.

We understand that pain is a deterrent for those wishing to be active – for this reason, you might want to start out with lower impact exercises such as gentle walking, swimming or yoga. These will put less strain on any individual muscles or joints and should result in less pain when getting started.

Suitable exercise ideas for those living with joint pains

  • Yoga
  • Swimming and Water Aerobics
  • Qigong
  • Stretching
  • Low impact exercises and seated exercises

A diagnosis of arthritis or any other joint condition doesn’t need to mean the end of an active lifestyle. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: after a short time exercising, your pain tolerance increases and things will begin to hurt less. We’ve got specialised exercises and resources for those who are living with conditions such as arthritis on our Vulnerable and Older Adults section.

Over time, you should also find it a little easier to push your limits, enabling you to do a little more each time.

Healthcare Professionals

Below is some key information about the science behind joint issues, as well as some useful resources which you can download or signpost patients to. 

For further information about having conversations with people living with joint pain and physical activity please visit Moving Medicine and the E Learning Page for directive conversation support.

Lady stretching outside
Lady stretching to reduce back pain

How can physical activity help reduce chances of developing joint pain?

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Joint pain can often be linked to being overweight as it puts stress on the joints. Regular physical activity will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of developing joint issues later in life.
  • Nutrients: Some structures including the nerves and the discs of the spine need movement to get nutrients and remain healthy and strong.
  • Strengthens muscles: Muscles get stronger the more you work them and won’t tire as easily over time.
  • Reduced flare ups: Participants in a study who exercised regularly reported less regular flare-ups of joint pain.
  • Healthier lifestyle: On top of this, being active will help reduce stress levels, improve sleep and can also release endorphins which can help block pain signals from reaching the brain.

More facts about chronic joint pain:

  • Over 10 million people in the UK suffer from arthritis or similar conditions
  • 400,000 of these suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, which increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes by up to 60%
  • Whilst joint pain is typically associated with older people, it can be experienced by all ages. It is becoming increasingly prevalent in those aged 30-40 and the younger generation. Read more on our insight page.
  • 100% of participants enrolled on local sessions have suggested Qi Gong was beneficial to their pain symptoms and general wellbeing.
  • General lifestyle changes such as eating healthier and drinking more water can help lubricate your joints and reduce pain over time.

Resource bank for healthy joints

There are several local charities and funds that can help if you need support. In contacting these charities, you’ll be able to chat to someone who works closely with people living with joint pain. They will also have a good idea of the best steps to take to start your active journey.

Local charities and organisations

Downloadable resources

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