Belly dancing

Inspired by dance styles from places such as Egypt, Morocco and Turkey, this slow, rhythmic dance is great for people with arthritis because the movements are slow and isolated and done with both feet flat on the floor. With actions such as hip circles and shoulder shimmies, belly dancing can help increase range of motion, says Matthews, but be aware that it takes time to gradually progress to those kinds of movements.

Hip hop

The music and the movements of this street-based dance are very upbeat and lively with high-intensity, high-impact steps where dancers quickly transfer their weight from one foot to another. With arthritis, you need to avoid those rapid movements, stepping instead of jumping and keeping both feet on the floor.


With roots in the Hindi movies in India, Bollywood dancing involves bouncing and side-to-side movements. Like hip hop, it can also be high impact with leaps as dancers keep pace with the fast-tempo music. The key for people with arthritis, says Matthews, is to step instead of jump, keeping movements low-impact.

Pole dancing

Sensual yet fun, pole dancing can be an unusual way to build muscle strength, flexibility and confidence. Using a pole as a prop involves a great deal of upper body strength and a lot of hand gripping so the exercise may be totally off-limits for anyone with serious hand or wrist issues. There’s also a lot of twisting in the knees and hips, so be very aware of your movements.

Always consult your physician or physical therapist before trying a new fitness regime, such as one of these dance styles. Matthews also offers some general tips to keep in mind:

  • Start slowly. Don’t jump into any exercise full-throttle or you’ll pay for it the next morning and beyond.
  • Slow down the pace. Do the dance moves in half time.
  • Avoid repetitive movements. This will help prevent injury and straining joints.
  • Approach the instructor. When you sign up, tell her about any issues or limitations so she can provide modifications.
  • Check with your doctor. Before you start any exercise, get your doctor’s opinion. She may be able to recommend one type of exercise over another.