Physical Activity and Educational Programs Proven to Help Arthritis

Movement is good medicine. Check out these fitness programs scientifically shown to reduce arthritis symptoms and improve overall health.

Staying physically active does wonders for your health. Research shows it not only reduces physical symptoms of arthritis — such as pain and stiffness — but it also decreases psychological symptoms associate with the chronic condition, including stress and anxiety. Improving your balance and increasing your strength, endurance and flexibility will also reduce your risk of falls.

The physical activity programs listed below have been scientifically proven to improve the quality of life for people with arthritis and related conditions, and are generally appropriate for adults of all ages and physical ability levels. Read on to learn more and to find a program that fits your fitness style.


Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program

The Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program is a water exercise program created by the Arthritis Foundation and the Y-USA for people with arthritis and related conditions. The classes are conducted by a trained instructor and include joint range of motion, stretching, breathing and light aerobic activities. The classes typically meet two or three times per week for one hour for six to 10 weeks.


Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program

The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program is a community-based, recreational exercise program developed by the Arthritis Foundation. Trained AFEP instructors cover a variety of range-of-motion and endurance-building activities, relaxation techniques and health education topics. All the exercises can be modified to meet participant needs. The program’s demonstrated benefits include improved functional ability, decreased depression and increased confidence in one’s ability to exercise. Classes typically meet two or three times per week for an hour.


Active Living Everyday

Active Living Everyday is a group-based program developed at the Cooper Institute that focuses on helping sedentary people become and stay physically active. Participants learn skills needed to become more physically active, such as identifying and overcoming barriers, setting goals and creating an action plan. The program addresses a variety of moderate and vigorous physical activities, and provides background information that can be used to make personal decisions about the type and amount of exercise to pursue. Participants do their actual physical activity outside of the group setting. Classes meet once a week for 12 to 20 weeks. Trained and certified facilitators teach the course in conjunction with a participant book.



Enhance®Fitness is an arthritis friendly low-cost, evidence-based group exercise and falls prevention program that helps older adults at all levels of fitness become more active, energized, and empowered. Classes meet for one hour three times a week in-person, online or in hybrid mode. Over 99% of participants say they would recommend EnhanceFitness to a friend. 

The program is proven to: 

  • Improve physical function 
  • Decrease depression 
  • Protect against falls and fall injury 
  • Provide a social benefit
  • Promote a physically active lifestyle 
  • Reduce medical care utilization costs 
  • Decrease unplanned hospitalizations 
  • Decrease mortality rates 

Find a location near you at or call 206-448-5725.


Fit & Strong! and Fit & Strong! Plus

Fit & Strong! is a community-based physical activity and behavior change intervention program offering stretching, balance, aerobic and endurance exercises. Health education, problem solving and goal setting also are important components of Fit & Strong! The program was designed to target sedentary older adults who are experiencing lower-extremity joint pain and stiffness, as well as adults with osteoarthritis. Fit & Strong! classes are 90 minutes three times per week for eight weeks and are delivered by a certified exercise instructor. Fit & Strong! Plus includes physical activity and weight loss.


My Knee Exercise Program

My Knee Exercise is a freely available website that contains a 6-month leg strengthening exercise program for people with knee osteoarthritis or persistent knee pain. The exercise program is fully self-directed and designed to improve knee symptoms. Instructional videos are provided for each recommended exercise as well as details of how each exercise can be made more, or less, challenging, depending on your abilities.  In addition to the exercise program, the website includes educational information about knee osteoarthritis and exercise as well as guidance to increase overall physical activity levels.


Walk with Ease

Walk with Ease is a community-based walking program developed by the Arthritis Foundation. Walk With Ease group sessions meet three times per week for six weeks. Trained group exercise leaders begin each session with a pre-walk discussion covering a specified topic related to exercise and arthritis, followed by a 10- to 40-minute walk that includes a warm-up and a cool-down period. Find a class. Walk With Ease also can be done independently with the program guidebook. Books are available at Free books are available at OA Action Alliance’s Self-Directed Portal (supplies may be limited.)


Tai Chi for Arthritis

Developed by Dr. Paul Lam at the Tai Chi for Health Institute, the Tai Chi for Arthritis program utilizes the gentle Sun Style Tai Chi for its ability to improve relaxation, balance and its ease of use for older adults. The movements are taught to both left and right sides and with turns to move forward and backward to improve mobility and offer a variety of combinations. The program has been proven to reduce arthritis pain and decrease fall risk. Find a tai chi instructor.


Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance

Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance® (TJQMBB) is a balance training regimen designed for older adults at risk of falling and people with balance disorders. TJQMBB represents a substantive enhancement of traditional Tai Ji Quan training and performance as it transforms martial arts movements into a therapeutic regimen aimed at improving postural stability, awareness and mindful control of body positioning in space, functional walking, movement symmetry and coordination, range of motion around the ankle and hip joints, lower-extremity muscle strength, and global cognitive function. The program is delivered by a trained lay leader/facilitator, fitness instructor, physical therapist, occupational therapist, nurse, or certified fitness instructor during two one-hour sessions each week for 24 weeks. Each session consists of warm-up exercises; core practices, which include a mix of practice of forms, variations of forms, and mini-therapeutic movements; and brief cool-down exercises. Find a class.


Yoga for Arthritis

Yoga is a set of theories and practices with origins in ancient India. It focuses on unifying the mind, body and spirit, and fostering a greater feeling of connection between the individual and his or her surroundings. In addition to improved flexibility, the practice of yoga also emphasizes postural alignment, strength, endurance and balance, and incorporates breathing practices, as well as techniques such as relaxation and meditation. There are numerous styles of yoga, many of which may prove difficult or too advanced for some with arthritis. When choosing a specific yoga program or style, be sure the practice and the instructor are appropriate for you and includes modifications that meet your goals and needs. Choose an instructor who has experience working with people who have arthritis. Find a yoga instructor online or in your area.

Self-Management programs are interactive (in-person and virtual) that build skills, sharing experiences and support.


Chronic Disease Self-Management Program
The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program is an effective self-management education workshop for people with chronic health problems including arthritis, diabetes and lung and heart diseases. This program covers topics such as: techniques to deal with problems associated with chronic disease; appropriate exercise; appropriate use of medications; communicating effectively with family, friends and health professionals; nutrition; and how to evaluate new treatments. Participants demonstrate significant improvements in exercise, ability to do social and household activities, as well as less depression, and fear and frustration or worry about their health. They also experience a reduction in symptoms like pain and increased confidence in their ability to manage their condition. Locate a CDSMP program near you.


Tomando Control de su Salud

(Spanish Chronic Disease Self-Management Program)

Tomando Control de su Salud is a self-management education program developed for Spanish-speaking people with chronic health problems. Tomando Control de su Salud was developed to address the health content and topics in a culturally appropriate manner. Topics covered in the program include: appropriate use of the health care system, how to evaluate new treatments, communicating effectively with family, friends, and health professionals, healthy eating, appropriate use of medications, techniques to deal with problems, and appropriate exercises for maintaining and improving strength, flexibility, and endurance. Locate a course near you.


Better Choices, Better Health®

Better Choices, Better Health® (BCBH) is an internet-based group workshop that uses content from the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program. It focuses on chronic disease management, decision making, problem-solving, and action-planning. Participants log on at their convenience 2-3 times per week for a total of approximately two hours; participants do not need to log on at the same time. Trained peer coaches facilitate the group dynamic and provide additional support to workshop participants. All the interactions occur through the secure web application and are designed to leverage both self-discovery and peer interactions to increase participants’ self-efficacy. The program is offered at partnering organizations. More information can be found here.



Enhance®Wellness (EW) is an evidence-based program that connects participants with a trained personal health and wellness coach to improve physical, emotional, and social well-being. Based on the Chronic Care Model, EW’s participant-centered approach uses motivational interviewing techniques and validated assessment tools in ten+ domains to guide Health Action Plan creation and accountability. Through the use of problem-solving strategies, participants clarify goals, responsibilities, and activities as they work toward health-related behavioral change. The goal of the program is to maintain or increase the health and functional status of older adults with chronic conditions and people aging with disability. Classes can be found here.

Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives (PEARLS)

The Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives (PEARLS), an intervention for adults and older adults with depression, aims to reduce symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation and improve quality of life.

PEARLS is delivered in six to eight 1-hour sessions by a trained health or social service professional (e.g., social worker, case manager, community health worker) in the client’s home or other community-based setting. Sessions are initially held weekly and become less frequent over a four- to five-month period. During sessions, clients choose the problems they would like to discuss, and the trained coach guides, teaches, and supports them in developing action plans that are implemented by the client between sessions to address these problems. Clients also plan meaningful and accessible physical, social, and pleasant activities to improve mood and energy. More information can be found here.


Chronic Pain Self-Management Program

The Chronic Pain Self-Management Program (CPSMP), was developed for people who have a primary or secondary diagnosis of chronic pain. Pain is defined as being chronic or long term when it lasts for longer than 3 to 6 months (such as pain from arthritis), or beyond the normal healing time of an injury. The CPSMP may also benefit those who have conditions such as persistent headache, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetic neuropathy, or those who experience severe muscular pain due to conditions such as multiple sclerosis. The CPSMP is held during a 2.5-hour session once a week over a six-week period. Classes are highly participative, where mutual support and success build the participants’ confidence in their ability to manage their health and maintain active and fulfilling lives. Classes are led by two trained leaders, one or both of whom are non-health professionals with chronic pain themselves. All leaders must be certified in the CPSMP.  The CPSMP can be offered by telephone, video platform, or in person.   It is available in English and Spanish. Locate a course near you.

Workplace Chronic Disease Self-Management Program

The Workplace Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (wCDSMP) is an adapted version of the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP, originally developed at Stanford) for use in the workplace. The primary goals and objectives for the program are to: 1. Improve self-management skills of employees with one or more chronic conditions; 2. Improve physical and mental health indicators of employees who participate in the program; and 3. Improve work performance and productivity indicators of employees who participate in the program. The program is conducted in a small group workshop during a 50-55 minute session, with two sessions held per week for six weeks. Classes are led by two trained CDSMP leaders, who have also attended the wCDSMP update, one or both of whom are non-health professionals with chronic disease themselves. The classes are available in person or by video platform in both English and Spanish. Locate a course near you.