Five Easy Exercises for Stiff Joints and Muscles

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Daniel Pavlik Sr DC

Apr 21, 2020

When you’re feeling stiff and sore, the last thing you might want to do is take exercise. If you don’t move around, though, the situation can deteriorate. It’s a vicious circle — you’re stiff, which means you don’t want to move, which makes your pain worse. These five simple exercises will get you moving without straining your muscles or joints.

Swimming

If you have problems with your joints, swimming can be the perfect solution. Swimming is a low impact exercise, meaning that it doesn’t place excessive strain on any of your joints. Swimming allows you to improve your range of motion and develop muscle strength, which in turn supports your joints and helps prevent further damage.

As well as swimming, you can undertake other exercises while in the water. This allows you to maintain your exercise regime while avoiding joint damage.

Stretching exercises

If you’ve been inactive for a while, you may find that your muscles become stiff and tight. Stretching exercises can help with this. Stretching is also great for promoting joint health and increasing your range of motion. For best results, you should undertake a variety of stretching exercises so that all your major muscle groups and joints can benefit.

Stretching exercises can include:

  • Hamstring stretches
  • Lat stretches
  • Quad (thigh muscle) stretches
  • Triceps (upper arm) stretches
  • Spinal twists (to exercise back muscles)

There’s some debate over the value of stretching before physical exercise. Some experts insist that stretching before you exercise is necessary to prevent strains and injuries, while other researchers suggest that it may not be beneficial after all. Everyone agrees, however, that stretching after exercise can reduce stiffness and muscular discomfort.

Strength training

Strength training might seem like a counter-intuitive approach to stiff, sore muscles, and joints. After all, wouldn’t lifting weights make you stiffer? Gentle strength training with light weights and body-weight exercises can be very therapeutic, however. Building up strength in your muscles can help prevent them from becoming sore with use while developing the muscles around your joints helps support and protect those joints.

Because strength training can place stress on your joints, it’s especially important to take things easy. Professional supervision by a personal trainer or a therapist is recommended.

Cycling

Cycling is a fantastic way to get cardiovascular exercise without shocking or stressing your lower body joints. Because you’re using your lower limbs without putting your weight on them, all your lower joints and muscles get a great low-impact workout.

It’s essential to choose your bicycle and your cycle routes with care if you have joint problems. Riding a cheap bicycle with bad suspension over rough roads will cause more discomfort. Get a good bike and ride it at moderate speeds over smooth trails. Alternatively, you can get the same benefits from a stationary bike. Stationary bikes also have the advantage of different settings and programs, which let you fine-tune your exercise regimen so that it’s right for your body.

Walking

If you have pain in your lower joints, you might try to avoid walking as much as possible. This can be a mistake, as gentle walking is an excellent exercise for stiff joints and sore muscles. Walking helps in many ways: it exercises your joints and muscles, oxygenates your blood, and improves your circulation. This is good news for your body. Walking can also improve your mood and help you feel more positive.

If you’re carrying some additional weight, take things slowly to avoid damage to your lower joints. Walking too quickly can hurt your knees, ankles, or feet. Aim for a gentle pace of around 2 mph initially. You’ll be able to increase your walking pace as your fitness levels improve.

When embarking on any new exercise program, you should seek advice from your healthcare provider or another medical professional before you begin. It’s easy to overdo things, especially at the beginning, which can exacerbate your sore joints or muscle pain.

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