Stationary or recumbent cycling. “Both recumbent and stationary bikes allow you to get your heart rate up, but they put very little pressure on the hip and knee joints,” says Dr. Vangsness. A recumbent bike is a safer choice if your balance is iffy or if you’re overweight, new to exercise or exercising post knee surgery. An upright bike allows you to spin faster and is best reserved for an injury-free, experienced exerciser.

Yoga and tai chi. “Tai chi and yoga improve flexibility and balance – two areas which individuals with arthritis often struggle with – and both are gentle on joints, too,” says Stiskal. Check your local community and fitness centers for yoga and tai chi classes, or you can exercise on your own time with guidance from a Tai Chi DVD based on Sun Style Tai Chi available from the Arthritis Foundation. 

Resistance training. Resistance training is an absolute must for people with arthritis, says Stiskal. Contrary to popular belief, weights are an excellent choice: “The key to using them safely is to have proper form and to lift the correct amount of weight for your strength level. If you’re not sure, ask a physical therapist or personal trainer to teach you,” she advises. Rubber resistance bands and strengthening equipment at the gym are good ways to build lean muscle mass. “Strong muscles absorb the shock that would otherwise affect your joints. It’s like the difference between walking barefoot on a cold floor and wearing warm, padded slippers,” says Stiskal.

Stick With It.

After a couple of months, your motivation may start to flag, your joints might be extra achy or your schedule might get out of hand. But don’t let excuses break your momentum – here's information to help you stick to your plan.

“My joints hurt.” Numerous studies show that exercise eases arthritis symptoms, including stiffness and pain. “Exercising releases pain-relieving chemicals, lubricates joints and strengthens muscles that cushion the joints,” says Dr. Vangsness. “There’s truth to the saying 'Use it or lose it.' If you remain inactive, your condition will get worse.”

“I’m too busy.” That’s code for, “My health and well-being is not a priority to me,” says Dr. Wright. “If you think you’re busy now, just wait until you’re dealing with a worsening chronic illness. Carving out 30 minutes a day is a worthwhile investment.” Keep in mind that it’s OK to work out in 10 minute increments throughout the day rather than all at once. “Research shows that you’ll get the same benefits,” says Stiskal.

“It’s boring.” If it starts to feel like a chore, switch things up. Variety is key to sticking with any exercise program, no matter how much you initially enjoyed your chosen activity. “Even the most fun form of exercise gets boring if it’s the only thing you do,” explains Nathan Wei, MD, director of the Arthritis Treatment Center in Fredrick, Md. “Plus, doing the same thing over and over increases your odds of a repetitive stress injury, and makes it more likely that you’ll plateau if you’re in the process of losing weight. Alternating workouts, on the other hand, continually challenges your body and your mind.”