5 Tips to Safely Benefit From Walking for People With Arthritis

Walking is a safe, enjoyable, low-cost and low-impact physical activity enjoyed in all seasons and locales, individually or in a group. Those living with arthritis, an estimated 54 million American adults, can enjoy and benefit from improved strength and endurance from walking.

The following are a few tips to help make a walking program safe and enjoyable for those with arthritis:

1.Talk before you walk.

Have a conversation with your physical therapist to discuss if anything would prevent you from walking for routine exercise. How far or how long should you walk? What intensity or speed? Are there any barriers to keep you from starting a walking routine?

2. “Walk a mile in your shoes.”

Much has been written about the health benefits of walking in both thinly or thickly padded shoes. There is some evidence that inserts and orthotics may help. Talk to your physical therapist about appropriate recommendations for footwear and inserts.

3. Walk with a buddy.

A walking buddy or group may improve your experience and safety. Such social walkers have less depression. Walking with a pet can be great too, but it can present its own challenges. Be sure you are walking a well-trained and leashed dog.

4. Listen to your body.

Modify your distance, time, and activity level based on what your joints are telling you that day. Sharp stabbing joint pains are a warning sign to reduce activity. Seek guidance from your physical therapist if joint pain is persistent.

5. Move safely and use assistance as needed.

Start slowly as needed. Practice consciously landing softly with each stride. A walking stick or hiking poles may relieve joint pressure and help with balance. Build the distance and time spent walking with permission from your body.

Access more tools and resources about walking with arthritis with Walk With Ease, a program from the Arthritis Foundation to guide you in developing your walking program.


Brisson NM, Gatti AA, Maly MR. Pain is not associated with steps per day in persons with mild-to-moderate, symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: a mixed models analysis of multiple measurements over 3 years. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). In press.

Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis facts. Accessed March 25, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical activity for arthritis. Accessed March 25, 2019.

Cisternas MG, Murphy LB, Carlson SA. Walking and the 2-year risk of functional decline: an observational study of US adults with arthritis. Prev Med. 2019;119:100–107. Article Summary on PubMed.

Wagner A, Luna S. Effect of footwear on joint pain and function in older adults with lower extremity osteoarthritis. J Geriatr Phys Ther. 2018;41(2):85–101. Article Summary on PubMed.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nonfatal injuries associated with dogs and cats. Accessed March 25, 2019.

Arthritis Foundation. Walk with ease. Published 2019. Accessed March 25, 2019.

Arthritis Foundation. Step up your workout with Nordic walking. Accessed March 25, 2019.

Hanson S, Jones A. Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(11):710–715. Free Article.

Robertson R, Robertson A, Jepson R, Maxwell M. Walking for depression or depressive symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysisMent Health Phys Act. 2012;5(1):66–75.

Authored by Joseph V Libera, PT, DPT.

%d bloggers like this: