Is Pilates Good for Arthritis?


When it comes to Pilates as a treatment for arthritis, here’s what the experts say…

If you enjoy leading an active lifestyle, we believe that arthritis shouldn’t get in the way. However, you will want to know which activities are most suitable or even beneficial if you have arthritis. With around 10 million people living with arthritis in the UK, it’s never been more important to shine a light on how people can continue to live an active lifestyle.

Arthritis can affect mobility and cause discomfort and pain in the joints. It commonly impacts the knees and hips — but can also affect the hands, wrists, neck, shoulders, feet and back.

You may have heard that cycling and swimming are highly recommended. This is because there is almost zero pressure on the joints. However, if Pilates is your thing, or you want to give it a try, we’re delving into whether it’s a suitable form of exercise.

Can Pilates Relieve Symptoms of Arthritis?

The great news is that some exercises can even strengthen your joints and muscles, such as squats and reformer Pilates. This in turn could relieve some symptoms, or help to prevent any worsening of your condition.

Stretching is beneficial for your blood flow, which in turn can relieve soreness. There is also no pressure on your joints or surrounding cartilage and ligaments. It’s a gentle exercise. Pilates is not about forcing your body into difficult poses or being overly energetic. It’s designed for everyone. In fact, the founder, Joseph Pilates, popularised Pilates by helping injured dancers rehabilitate by using gentle, repetitive movement. You can also add resistance with apparatus such as a Pilates reformer.

It can help with the alignment of your spine, making it a great posture booster which could ease stiffness in the neck or back.

If you experience pain, you should never feel pressure to continue an exercise. It’s best to find an activity and routine that works for you. Even just 15 minutes a day of light stretching can be hugely beneficial.

If you find that mobility is a struggle, you may be worried about getting up from a mat after lying down. There are ways around this. Some people find that rolling onto their side into a seated position works. You can also complete plenty of stretches sitting or standing, so you can bypass lying down altogether if required.

Good vs. Bad Exercises for Arthritis

For some arthritis sufferers, you may worry that you won’t be able to enjoy an active lifestyle any more. However, that’s not the case! As you can see in the chart below, there are more exercises that are recommended than ones you should avoid.

Recommended exercises for arthritis

  • Pilates and stretching
  • Yoga and tai chi
  • Swimming
  • Weightlifting
  • Cycling and spin bikes
  • Water aerobics
  • Squats

Exercises to avoid with arthritis

  • Jogging or running
  • High impact sports
  • High impact aerobics
  • Skipping rope or jumping
  • Long distance hiking

How to Get Started with Pilates

If you’re not sure how to get started, we recommend finding a specialist Pilates class or fitness instructor. You can also find specific arthritis-friendly exercise videos online. It’s also worth getting to know which point in the day you’re most likely to suffer inflammation. That way, you can plan your sessions for when you are feeling less pain or stiffness.