You’ve heard it before: Exercise is particularly vital for people with arthritis. It can increase flexibility, reduce pain and ease joint stiffness – not to mention trimming your weight and boosting your strength. Yet only 13 percent of men and 8 percent of women with osteoarthritis get the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, according to a study published in 2011 in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

To help you overcome the 11 most common excuses for skipping exercise, we consulted the experts and sifted through the research. Once you’re armed with their smart strategies, you’ll be able to sidestep any fitness hurdle. Of course, always consult your doctor before you begin an exercise regimen.

Excuse #1: “I have no time to work out.”

You barely have time for work, family and household responsibilities, much less a trip to the gym. “But you don’t have to set aside hours for exercise every day,” says Tony Wanich, MD, a sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.

According to a study published in a 2007 issue of Arthritis Research and Therapy, women who exercised 75 minutes a week ­– that’s about 11 minutes a day – were less likely to experience stiff, achy joints than their sedentary counterparts. “Do a few laps around the shopping center while you’re running errands or go for a quick stroll at lunchtime,” suggests Dr. Wanich. “It all adds up.”

Excuse #2: “I’m in too much pain.”

When you’re already hurting, it’s difficult to find the motivation to move. But mild activity can help to ease the ache, says Megan Murphy, a physical therapist in Denver. Before you try to exercise, first tune into your body. “Take stock of your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most pain,” she says. If your baseline is generally a 3, for instance, avoid or stop exercising if that number inches up.

“It’s also smart to begin with a low-impact activity, like biking,” says Dr. Wanich. “Swimming or walking in the pool is also an option, since the buoyancy of the water takes pressure off of your joints.” But before you dive in, start with a warm up to prep the muscles. “You may literally want to use a heating pad to loosen up your muscles and ease the stiffness,” he says. “Then follow that with 10 minutes of basic stretching or light activity before your workout.”

Excuse #3: “Working out is boring.”

“The key to sticking with an exercise program is finding something that you enjoy,” says Walter Thompson, PhD, a professor of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University.

To make things even more fun, ask a friend, spouse or coworker to join you. “Exercising with a buddy makes it a social activity,” says Mary Edwards, fitness director at Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas. “Plus, there’s another person to keep you accountable, so you’re less likely to skip a session.” In a study published in a 2005 Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, people with knee osteoarthritis who where paired up with a partner adhered to a workout plan for longer than those who did it alone. If your pals aren’t interested, check out walking groups and clubs in your area, as well as community sites like meetup.com or the Arthritis Foundation Walk With Ease Program.