These Exercise Tips May Improve Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms

Done right, a little activity can improve pain, fight fatigue, and more.

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If your joints are already a pain in the—well, everywhere—it’s understandable to want to avoid lacing up your gym shoes. But in fact, the right kind of physical activity can be a critical part of a psoriatic arthritis treatment plan.

“Regular, gentle physical activity is one of the best things you can do for psoriatic arthritis,” says rheumatologist Leah Alon, MD, of the Harlem Health Center and Queens Health Center in New York City. Here’s why regular exercise is so crucial to easing psoriatic arthritis symptoms.

  • Exercise helps stabilize joints. Exercise can build up strength in both the muscles and tendons, which takes off some of the pressure in the joints, according to NYU Langone Medical Center.

  • Exercise can improve mobility. As long as you keep your workouts low-impact (intense running on the treadmill is a major “no”), exercise can help extend your range of movement and ease stiffness, a common symptom of psoriatic arthritis.

  • Exercise combats fatigue. Technically, this is true for everyone, but boosting energy is especially important for patients with psoriatic arthritis, since this condition can cause extreme and chronic fatigue.

  • Exercise may help with weight loss.  Managing weight is crucial for patients with psoriatic arthritis; obesity can make psoriatic arthritis worse. In addition to reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, two diseases that are more common in psoriatic arthritis patients, weight loss can improve the effectiveness of TNF-blocking drugs that treat psoriatic arthritis. Here’s more information about how diet affects psoriatic arthritis.

But understandably, exercise can be a challenge if you’re already feeling pain. Docs recommend  a well-rounded exercise routine, so variety is key. Low-impact cardio, such as walking, swimming, and cycling increase your endurance, burn calories, and boost energy. Strength training builds up muscles to stabilize the joints. Daily stretching (try 10 to 15 minutes) can improve mobility and improve stiffness in your joints.

Remember, this are low-intensity, low-impact workouts we’re talking about. (Here’s how to tell if your workout is too intense.) If you feel pain the following day, that’s a strong sign that you may have overdone it.

And of course, if you feel joint pain while exercise, stop immediately. Your exercise routine should support, not disrupt, your psoriatic arthritis treatment. Talk to your doctor to find the right exercise regimen for you.