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Keeping fit and healthy

Keeping fit and healthy is an important part of looking after your joints. You can do this by exercising, eating a balanced diet and taking care of your body.

Why should I exercise?

Exercising helps to keep your muscles strong and your joints moving. You can even exercise without putting strain on your joints. Joint protection and exercise work together. Joint protection reduces strain on your joint capsule and ligament, which can become slack if you have arthritis, and straining them can make this worse. Exercise strengthens the muscles around your joint so that they can help to support it.

Should I follow a special diet?

Being overweight puts an extra burden on your weight-bearing joints (your back, hips, knees, ankles and feet) when they’re already damaged or under strain. Because of the way your joints work, the pressure in your knee joints is 5–6 times your body weight when you walk. For this reason, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. You can do this by taking regular exercise, for example swimming, which is particularly good for people with arthritis because the water supports your joints.

Eating a Mediterranean-style diet is good for providing all the nutrients and vitamins you need. This includes:

  • lots of fruit and vegetables
  • oily fish
  • nuts and seeds
  • olive oil.

Some people take dietary supplements to help protect their joints, for example glucosamine sulphate and chondroitin, which can be found in some supermarkets and health food stores. Generally speaking supplements are relatively well tolerated, but you should speak to your doctor about taking them because some can interfere with other medication, for example St John’s wort stops the contraceptive pill working properly.

If you decide to try any supplement, you should question what they’re doing for you, and base your decision to continue on whether you notice any improvement.

How can I care for my feet?

Having painful feet can limit you getting out of the house for work, leisure, shopping and exercise. Good shoes help to protect your feet in the long term. Ask to be referred to a rheumatology podiatrist if you have rheumatoid arthritis and your feet are painful or starting to change shape.

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