Arthritis is becoming more and more common—and not just among the very old. That’s the bad news. The good news is that a safe and effective program of moderate exercise can offset the pain and inconvenience of this indiscriminate disease.

Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that exercise will worsen their condition. Not true. As is the case with many diseases, a well-rounded program of flexibility, strength and cardiovascular exercise can not only reduce the adverse affects of arthritis, but improve overall fitness as well.

After getting the go-ahead from your doctor, try to include 10 to 20 minutes of strengthening, stretching and range-of-motion exercises, and 15 to 60 minutes of moderate, low-impact aerobic activity at least three days per week. Start out slowly and gradually increase intensity over time, but never exercise to the point of pain. A certified personal trainer experienced in the management of arthritis can help you develop a safe and appropriate exercise program.

The top 10 reasons why people with arthritis should exercise

1. Flexibility training helps improve range of motion and reduces stiffness in afflicted joints, particularly the early-morning stiffness often associated with arthritis.

2. Cardiovascular exercise, especially a low-impact activity such as walking, not only improves overall fitness, but also helps reduce the psychological and emotional pain that often accompanies arthritis.

3. Exercise strengthens muscles and improves mobility, which makes it easier to perform activities of daily living. The easier these activities are, the more active one is likely to be overall.

4. Weight-bearing exercise such as walking positively affects bone mass, helping to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease that is often seen in people with arthritis due to reduced activity.

5. Arthritis can negatively affect posture, balance and coordination, all of which may be improved with regular exercise.

6. Excess weight places additional strain on the joints, so maintaining a healthy weight is important for those with arthritis. Along with a sensible diet, exercise can aid in weight control.

7. Exercise has been proved to help manage stress, which can take its toll on the whole body, including the joints.

8. Because it is a chronic, degenerative disease, arthritis can often cause people to become depressed and develop a poor self-image. People who exercise, however, tend to be less depressed and possess a more positive outlook.

9. Painful joints can make getting a good night’s sleep difficult, if not impossible. Regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep patterns and may help alleviate this problem.

10. Because arthritis often leads to a more sedentary lifestyle, individuals with this disease often increase their risk of developing other deadly diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes. Staying active and exercising regularly not only help offset the effects of arthritis, but the risk of developing some other lifestyle-related diseases as well.

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