This is part two of two connecting posts for a reader. The first section was all about diet changes to manage inflammation (Diet to Manage Juvenile Arthritis). This part is about exercise.
When you have arthritis, it's easy to fall into the trap of not exercising. It's not purposeful, it just hurts to move around sometimes. Though pushing your limits is not recommended at all, it's important to try and keep active. Keeping active will help you keep your joints from becoming too stiff and keeping them strong. You may be sent to physiotherapy (physical therapy) to assist, and this is the person who should help you the most in your work out planning. Your doctor would be another good person to consult with. And most importantly, listen to your body.
Stretching is good. Some people have found good results in yoga. Yoga can be very good for a person with arthritis but it can be hard to tell what our bodies can handle. As a person who couldn't handle yoga, I recommend talking to your doctor physio/physical therapist first. They should be able to help you decide what you can and can't handle, and may be able to teach you appropriate poses. I don't recommend trying anything by yourself: it is easy to hurt yourself, especially with painful, stiff joints.
I used to swim a lot. I haven't much in the past year because I haven't had much time, but I used to swim once or twice a week. I highly recommend exercising in water: it's much easier on your joints and strengthens better than on land. I found that the swimming really helped me. If you have the opportunity to swim, I highly recommend it. If it's an indoor pool, that's even better because it may be heated (or at least room temperature) and that will help relax your muscles. It's probably also the safest exercise option for people with arthritis because it doesn't put as much pressure on your joints the way being on land does.
Mostly, I've found the best way to help control my arthritis is by walking and riding my bicycle (when possible). Since there is little way to avoid walking, by walking more often it can make it more tolerable. I do things like getting off my bus a sto early or walk to the shops to try and sneak more walking into my day. I also use to use an exercise machine that mimicked stairs to help make stairs easier. By strengthing muscles we often use, our everyday weakness and pain could be eased.
Any exercise is good for you so long as it's low impact (so tennis or running wouldn't be a good idea). Whatever you do, make it enjoyable so you'll want to continue. Also, stay safe: keep hydrated and don't push your limits. If your body says stop, stop. And start slowly if you're not used to working out: Do 15 minutes of whatever you choose for the first few days, then 20 and work up as you (and your doctor) finds appropriate. Sudden changes to your life style like a sudden strenuous work out can cause a flare: you need to build up to longer or more strenuous work outs.