Arthritis Today

Gentle Moves for Rest Days

Try these low-impact exercises to keep the joints flexible between workout days.


Rest days are important to any workout routine – allowing the body to recuperate. But the antidote to doing too much is not doing nothing, cautions Mark P. Cote, a physical therapist and sports medicine and clinical outcomes research facilitator at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, Conn. "Doing nothing, regardless of what type of arthritis you have is going to make your arthritis worse," says Cote.

On rest days, he recommends gentle exercises that increase flexibility for arthritis joints. If you usually walk two miles, you might walk just to the corner and back, or try walking in the pool to take advantage of the water's buoyancy.

Try these low-impact exercises to keep joints flexible between workout days.

For the neck:

• Look straight ahead.

• Tilt head gently sideways toward shoulder.

• Hold 3 seconds.

• Repeat to other side.

For the shoulders:

• Stand at the bottom of stairs with your hand on the banister and slide your hand up and down the banister.

• Move to other side of the stairs and repeat with the other arm.

For the arms:

• Hold arms at sides, palms forward and elbows straight.

• Raise arms out to sides and up as if clapping hands above your head.

• Lower arms slowly and repeat.  

For the elbows:

• Sit or stand with arms at sides and palms up.

• Bend elbows, bringing palms toward shoulders.

• Straighten arms and return to sides.

For the hands:

• Place open hands palm down on a table or flat surface.

• Slowly bend each joint and make a loose fist.

• Hold for 3 seconds.

• Straighten fingers and open hand again.

For the knees:

• Lie on your back with your knees bent and heels touching the floor.

• Keeping your foot flat on the floor, slide one heel back toward your bottom. Hold for 3 seconds and slide leg back to starting position.

• Repeat with other leg.

For the hips:

• Lie on your back with your knees bent and heels touching the floor.

• Place your hand under one thigh and pull that leg toward your body so your toes are pointed toward the ceiling, and hold for 3 seconds.

• Repeat with other leg.

For the ankles:

• Sitting on a chair or couch, dangle your leg and do 30 clockwise circles with your foot.

• Reverse direction and do 30 counter clockwise circles.

• Repeat with other foot.