One in every five adults has arthritis symptoms that can make it painful just to move, let alone working out. Yet doctors, including CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, say the right kind of exercise is actually the best thing for your aching joints.
Considering 40 percent of arthritis sufferers say it's just too painful to do any physical activity, how could exercise actually help?
"It's a little counter-intuitive, because the last thing you want to do is do something that causes pain," Ashton explained. "But if we put this into context, we used to think of arthritis as a condition that only affects the elderly. Not so anymore, we're seeing this in younger people."
Ashton says this is partially due to obesity or overuse injuries, therefore, it's not uncommon today to see someone even in their 30's suffering from arthritis.
"There are lots of different types. Basically you're talking about an inflammation in the joint that causes the cartilage to break down and eventually you're dealing with a bone on bone situation," she adds. "So what exercise can do, it cannot only release those feel-good chemicals, known as endorphins, but it can improve blood flow to the area. It can increase your range of motion and all of those things put together are going to make you feel better, not worse."
What are some of the best exercises you can do for these stiff joints?
Ashton suggests low impact activities, such as swimming, hiking, biking and dancing, which cause your body to move in three dimensions. It also doesn't put a lot of undue stress on those joints, which are already inflamed.
"So on the flip side of the spectrum, the things that are really bad for people suffering from arthritis - or in general bad for our joints - (are) those very high impact exercises, or activities. Running on hard pavement is a big one," she pointed out. "Even things that are very trendy and in vogue right now like kettle bells might be good for the very young person with no joint problems, but if you have a tender or inflamed joint that's at risk, you want to stay away from those."
For people to start to see some improvement by adding in these exercises, is there a certain target you should have every week?
"The key thing is you want to do it gradually. You don't want to go from a period of being immobile to doing high level of activity," Ashton explained. "If you look at what the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends, for example, for people suffering from arthritis, they really tend to be a weekly plan. You want to strive for about 150 minutes a week of aerobic or cardiovascular activity. You want to include muscle-building or strength exercises about two days a week. And balance and flexibility, you want to do that about three days a week. Again, you want to start slowly, build up gradually. And these are exercises that are good for everyone - not just people suffering with arthritis."