person in black leggings and blue and black striped tank top using an exercise machine

I Have Psoriatic Arthritis. Can I Really Exercise? A Q&A with Dr. Ogdie

By Beth W. Orenstein
Reviewed by Ethan T. Craig, M.D.
December 01, 2023

This article is part of a Q&A series in which a healthcare professional in our community answers your frequently asked questions.

We asked: “Is it safe for me to exercise with my psoriatic arthritis? How should I do it?”

Alexis Ogdie, M.D.: While exercise may seem out of the question given your pain and fatigue, it’s actually the exact opposite. A review published in Clinical Rheumatology in 2021 found that people with psoriatic arthritis who exercised regularly actually reported less pain and fatigue than their peers who didn’t exercise. Indeed, exercise is one of the nondrug treatments included in the American College of Rheumatology/National Psoriasis Foundation guidelines for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis.

What Are the Benefits of Exercise for Psoriatic Arthritis?

Exercise can help you maintain muscle mass around your joints, and stronger muscles provide more protection. Resistance training—like lifting weights, using resistance bands, and body weight exercises—is good for maintaining muscle mass.

Exercise that promotes balance and flexibility may help you to retain range of motion, ease joint stiffness, and help prevent falls. Tai chi is a good example of exercise that focuses on balance.

Other benefits of exercise—including low-impact aerobic exercise, like swimming, walking, and bicycling—include a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke, which people with psoriatic arthritis are at greater risk of developing. Also, exercise can help to reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and mood disorders. Exercise can promote better, deeper sleep, too.

How Do I Start?

Before you start an exercise program, get your doctor’s approval. And if you’re unsure where to start, you might enlist help from a personal trainer or physical therapist with experience helping people with arthritis.

The key is to start slow. If you haven’t done any exercises for a while, it’s likely going to feel uncomfortable at first. Start with as little as five minutes per day and work up to 10, 15, and so on. Avoid long or painful workouts. Thirty to 40 minutes of low-impact, low-intensity exercise at least three times a week is typically ideal.

You may need to modify exercises to fit your symptoms and abilities. For example, if your psoriatic arthritis causes your wrists to swell, you may want to choose lighter hand weights.

Find a partner, too. Whether it’s a spouse, friend, or trainer, having someone to work out with can hold you accountable and may make exercise time more fun and pass more quickly.

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