What are strengthening exercises?
Strengthening exercises help you to strengthen your muscles so they can support your joints. To strengthen muscles we usually need to move them against some resistance.
Why are strengthening exercises important?
If your muscles are weak, your joints can become unstable, which can be painful.
You probably won't want to move when you’re in pain, but this can cause your joints to become stiff and more painful. After only a short time your muscles will start to weaken and get smaller.
Eventually the pain in your joints and weakness in the muscles around them will mean you won't be able to do what you could before. Stretching exercises can help prevent this.
How should I do strengthening exercises?
Do strengthening exercises slowly. Start with a low number of repetitions and build up gradually.
It's normal for your muscles to feel a bit sore after exercise, especially if you're not used to it, but you should stop if you have sudden or severe pain in your muscles or joints. Seek medical advice if the pain persists after you have finished exercising.
If you’re back to normal by the next day then start again, but start slowly. If all's well after that, gradually increase the amount you do each day.
You may want to try Pilates, which focuses on strengthening the muscles involved in improving posture and keeping your joints in the correct position. Discuss which classes would be best for you with your physiotherapist.
If your joints are especially hot or swollen, leave the strengthening exercises until your joints settle down again. You can still do the stretching exercises, but do them gently and only do a few repetitions once a day.
You can find some stretching and strengthening exercises at the end of our Keep moving booklet (PDF 3.7 MB)