When your joints hurt, you’re probably not eager to exercise – even though you’ve heard time and time again that you should. Not only does exercise keep joints strong and flexible, it also promises pain relief for a host of conditions, including osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and fibromyalgia. It also keeps pain from starting, helps you shed pounds and reduces stress.

Still not persuaded to get off the couch? Maybe that’s because you haven’t found the activity that suits you. That’s about to change.

We went to experts for the low-down on low-impact, joint-friendly and, dare we say it, fun ways to shape up. (Shuffleboard, anyone?) Whether you’re an exercise newbie, or just want to spice up your fitness menu, you’re sure to find an activity that gets you excited to move.

Aquatic Sports 

1. Water Walking

Why It’s Good: Walking in waist-deep water lessens weight on joints by 50 percent compared with walking on land, explains physical therapist Davis Reyes, assistant manager of the Joint Mobility Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

Do It Safely: Take a class with an instructor who can teach you proper form.

Cautions (for all water exercises): Patients feel really good in the water, so it’s possible to over-exercise, become fatigued and aggravate joints,” says Reyes. Water exercise is often recommended for people who’ve had a joint replacement, but wait until the incision has healed.

2. Water Aerobics

Why It’s Good: Water aerobics, which involves your upper and lower body and mid-section, is usually done in chest-deep water, lessening impact on your joints by 75 percent compared with traditional aerobics, Reyes says.

Do It Safely: Warm up for five to 10 minutes with easy walking and arm movements – basically mimicking what you’ll be doing – to loosen joints and relax muscles.

3. Swimming

Why It’s Good: Swimming works all of your muscle groups and builds cardiovascular endurance.

Do It Safely: Learn to swim properly to minimize your injury risk, and choose a stroke that is most comfortable for your joints. For example, your legs are relatively straight in freestyle, making it a good choice for someone with hip or knee arthritis – unlike the breaststroke, which could aggravate pain in these joints.

Social Sports

4. Bocce Ball

Why It’s Good: Social activities that get you moving take your mind off your pain while you burn calories and get stronger. Bocce is done in a relatively upright position so bending and lunging are at a minimum, says Reyes.

Do It Safely: Don’t bend your knee or extend your arm beyond a comfortable range of motion.

Cautions: Holding and tossing the bocce ball might aggravate hand, wrist, elbow or shoulder arthritis.

5. Golf

Why It’s Good: It works your upper back, legs, shoulders, wrists and hands. Additionally, if you don’t rely on a motorized cart, you’ll do lots of joint- and heart-healthy walking.

Do It Safely: Wear walking sneakers or golf shoes with soft spikes – unlike metal spikes, they won’t grab the grass and trip you, says exercise physiologist Robyn Stuhr, sports medicine program director at the University of California San Diego Department of Orthopedic Surgery. Use clubs with a lightweight, graphite shaft and a perimeter-weighted head for better shock absorption and pull them in a wheeled cart.

To warm up, stand in place and gently rotate your body to the right and left as you pretend to swing a club, says Stuhr. Try a few gentle swings with a light iron and then do the same with your heavier driver.

Cautions: Sometimes you have to scale back in order to enjoy the game long term. If you hurt after a few holes, stop playing, Stuhr says.

6. Shuffleboard

Why It’s Good: In “deck” or outdoor shuffleboard, you use your legs to push forward and your arms to push the cue and weighted puck.

Do It Safely: Wear comfortable, non-slip shoes. Don’t overdo it and don't push yourself beyond a comfortable range of motion.

Cautions: This could aggravate shoulder or elbow arthritis if you push the puck too hard, and knee arthritis if you lunge too deeply.