Strength & Flex

Chronic arthritis and exercise

I am obese, diabetic and have chronic arthritis. I am going into hospital soon for a knee replacement and my surgeon has told me to lose as much weight as possible. How can I exercise with chronic arthritis in my knees and hips. I can't walk without crutches and even turning over in bed at night wakens me up with pain.

Is there any kind of exercise can I do.

7 Replies

Have you asked your GP about this? There may be some support for you at your local leisure centre but they are bound to want to know what your GP says so may as well go there first.

The NHS Strength and Flexibility programme doesn't seem likely to be appropriate for you at this point.

Swimming may be good - I say this although it makes me grind and clunk and ache afterwards far more than running (which I find easier than a brisk walk!) I still do it though and it has got less grindy and clunky. At any rate you could just get in the water.

You could consider how you time your pain relief to enable you to exercise. It is a subtle thing... when you have conditions like this, the mantra of 'if it hurts, don't do it' doesn't apply in the same way as for others but care is still needed.

You can lose weight without increasing your exercise levels. With your current health status, it isn't going to be about burning lots of calories anyway but being more active will support your weight loss mission in other ways. Even things like yoga in a chair.

Let's face it, lots of superfit wheelchair athletes!

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Eccentric (negative, or lowering of the weight) resistance exercise may be useful for building the muscle around joints. You need to seek the advice of a knowledgeable instructor about this. Essentially it involves controlled lowering of weight-resistance; lifting with two legs, lowering with one for instance.

As importantly, watch what you're eating. Fructose, alcohol and protein all yield excess uric-acid as a harmful side-product of their metabolism, which contributes to arthritis.

Inflammation from foods that spike your insulin/IGF-1 levels is the other major problem to avoid.

Diabetes UK state that the greatest determinant of blood glucose is the amount of carbohydrate ingested. However, instead of using this as a cornerstone for your balanced, healthy diet, you've probably been told to follow the Eatwell Plate advice for healthy eating?


Hi I really sympathise with you. I was the same and found it really hard to exercise. I was told to sitin a chair and lift my leg to straighten it 10 times and gradually increase it. I was sent to the hospital to the gym as well bit I couldn't do the things they asked me to such as going up and down a step and biking. I have CMT but didn't know this at the time. I didn't even burn 1 calorie. I would suggest a strict diet to lose weight instead. I couldn't use crutches and had to use a wheelchair. Consequently, I put on loads of weight which I am still trying to lose. Hope it goes well.


I'm no expert but I would think start off with armchair aerobics or low level water aerobics. I think it will be the dieting that will shift the weight rather than exercise.

Well done you for taking these first steps towards a fitter and healthier life for you.


Hi, I got a great booklet from Arthritis Research - you can do sitting exercises involving raising your legs etc, using ankle/wrist weights as you get better at it. My osteo is relatively mild and I want to keep it that way so try to exercise daily. This however will strengthen the muscles and ease pain, it won't help you lose weight. My friend who is also obese goes swimming for good cardio exercise that doesn't put strain on the joints. Good luck!.

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I have had both knees replaced in the past 16 months, am diabetic and overweight also although I have lost quite a bit of weight since the surgeries as I lost my appetite. I swim 3 - 4 times a week but feel tired all the time. I have a desk job, full time and apart from swimming and working I lie down and sleep. I need to not feel so tired but swimming certainly helps the joints and the weight loss.


Hello I'm vallen I have arthritis in both feet. I have had fusion of three joints in my right foot it's been a long journey from surgery last september. I have had to learn how to walk again and still am in pain. I have found doing gentle exercise at home has helped. I bought a DVD Yoga for beginners (Susan Fulton) which you can buy online. I hope this helps good luck with your surgery. There is light at the end, as I now am walking without the crutches at home.


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