Here, six tips to tame the pain.

If you suffer from the disease, no doubt you're already all too aware of chronic joint pain, stiffness and swelling. But did you know that exercise – even mild exercise – can in many cases help not only to reduce pain and increase mobility but improve your overall quality of life?

According to The Arthritis Society, more than 4.6 million Canadians have arthritis, the most common chronic condition reported by women and the third most common among men. And while arthritis is often perceived as an old person's disease, more than half of the Canadians living with arthritis are under 65. Exercise, as it turns out, has been identified as one of the key elements in managing the disease.

"We at the Arthritis Society really encourage people to say physically active because it has so many benefits," says Karen Gordon, an Ottawa-based registered physiotherapist and clinical practice lead with The Arthritis Society.

"When we move, we help to lubricate our joints. We help to strengthen our muscles. We improve our flexibility and improve endurance. People who exercise more also tend to be in a better mood. And the other biggie is people who exercise also tend to sleep better – and people who sleep better feel better."

So why doesn't everyone do it then?

"There's a fear factor, for one thing" says Karen. "Once someone gets a diagnosis of arthritis, they're often afraid they're going to hurt themselves. So here at The Arthritis Society we want to encourage people and tell them 'don't be afraid, continue to try to stay active, but you might have to pick different things than you've done in the past'."

fitness-swimming

Here, Karen offers some general tips if you're living with arthritis and want to start an exercise program:

1) Go low-impact: Choose something like walking, cycling, swimming (aquafit is great), low-impact exercise classes, or strength/resistance training. These are typically easier on the joints.

2) Stay away from high-impact sports: Stay away from racket sports, running, twisting, jumping (think soccer, tennis). "In general, no matter what kind of arthritis you're living with, it's best to avoid these activities," says Karen.

3) Respect your joint pain: This is one of the cardinal rules. "Don't ignore it. Listen to it," Karen emphasizes. "Your joints will tell you at the end of the day if what you did was good for them or not."

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