Everybody’s knees take a beating. It is estimated that walking puts a force of three to six times your body weight on your knees. So the effects of extra weight on knees and other joints can be a serious problem.

Just an extra 10 pounds of body weight puts 30 to 60 more pounds of force on your knees with every single step. Can knee pain, osteoarthritis and cartilage damage be far behind?

In the United States, 52.5 million adults have diagnosed arthritis, and 22.7 million say their condition limits what they can do, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Arthritis afflicts hands and feet, hips, backs, and necks, as well as knees.

But there’s plenty of hope for people suffering from joint problems. One way to ease pain is to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise also helps with joint pain and stiffness, and it has the added benefit of helping control weight.

How Can Exercise Help with Joint Pain?

For most people with arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and lupus, exercise can help.

Studies have shown that getting regular moderate-intensity, low-impact physical activity decreases pain and improves function, mood and quality of life without making the condition or symptoms worse.

An effective exercise routine can:

  • Strengthen muscles around joints
  • Help maintain bone strength
  • Give you more energy to handle daily tasks
  • Make it easier to sleep well
  • Improve balance
  • Control weight

And maybe most important of all, exercise will improve your overall quality of life while helping your joints be less painful and stiff.

Many Small Steps = Big Gains

It might be tough to think about even a little exercise when you’re already stiff, sore and weary with pain.

It may help to begin with some mind over matter. Keep telling yourself to take just one small step at a time. And keep your final goal in mind. You want less pain, more mobility and more activity. By picturing this version of yourself, it may be easier to get started and keep going.

As you get started, keep in mind that you should never overdo any exercise. And try not to feel like a failure if you don’t accomplish what you set out to do. There’s always the next time.

Different types of exercise have different benefits for people with joint problems.

  • Range-of-motion exercises ease stiffness and help your body come closer to having its full range of motion. Examples include raising your arms over your head and rolling your shoulders. These can usually be done daily.
  • Strengthening exercises build muscles to support and protect your joints. This type of exercise should be limited to two or three times a week. Be sure to exercise different muscle groups.
  • Aerobic exercise helps with joint pain and overall fitness. Some examples include walking, swimming and bicycling. With regular aerobic exercise, you’ll have better heart health, better weight control and more energy. Shoot for 150 minutes a week. You can break up sessions into as little as 10-minute blocks.

A plan that includes all three of these types of exercise is usually recommended. As always, talk to your doctor before you start a new activity or exercise program.

What specific exercise plan is best depends on what kind of arthritis you have and which joints are aching. Your doctor can help you come up with the best plan for your needs.