Exercising with Chronic Conditions: Heart Disease, Diabetes, Arthritis, and Osteoporosis

On this page, you’ll find information about exercise and:

Exercise is safe for almost everyone. In fact, studies show that people with arthritis, high blood pressure,Senior Couple Jogging Along Track In Park diabetes, or heart disease benefit from regular exercise and physical activity. In some cases, exercise actually can improve some of these conditions. You may want to talk with your doctor about how your health condition might affect your ability to be active. Read more about exercise and physical activity for specific chronic conditions below.

Exercise and Heart Health

Your heart keeps your body running. As you grow older, some changes in the heart and blood vessels are normal, but others are caused by disease.
Choices you might make every day can contribute to heart disease.

To keep your heart healthy, be more physically active. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most or all days of the week. It doesn’t have to be done all at once—10-minute periods will do.

Other important ways to take care of your heart:

If you smoke, quit. It’s never too late to get some benefit from quitting smoking.

Follow a heart-healthy diet. Choose low-fat foods and those that are low in salt. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and foods high in fiber.

Keep a healthy weight. Your healthcare provider can check your weight and height to learn your BMI (body mass index). A BMI of 25 or higher means you are at risk for heart disease, as well as diabetes and other health conditions.

Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes

You can take small steps to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, moving more, and making smart food choices. If you already have diabetes, exercise and physical activity can help manage the disease and help you stay healthy longer.

Set small goals to start. Add a little more activity until you reach at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Go4Life has easy exercises to get you started, and fun ideas for being active all year.

Easy steps to be more active:

  • Put away the remote control—get up to change the TV channel. Stretch during commercial breaks.
  • Walk around when you talk on the phone.
  • Take more steps by parking the car farther away from stores, movie theaters, or your office.

Learn more about preventing and managing diabetes from the National Diabetes Education Program.

Exercising with Arthritis

Exercise is safe for almost everyone. For people with arthritis, exercise can reduce joint pain and stiffness. It can also help with losing weight, which reduces stress on the joints.

Flexibility exercises can help keep joints moving, relieve stiffness, and give you more freedom of movement for everyday activities. Examples of flexibility exercises include upper- and lower-body stretching, yoga, and tai chi.

Strengthening exercises will help you maintain or add to your muscle strength. Strong muscles support and protect joints. Weight-bearing exercises, such as weight lifting, fall into this category. You can use bottles of water or soup cans if you don’t have weights.

Endurance exercises make the heart and arteries healthier and may lessen swelling in some joints. Try low-impact options such as swimming and biking.

If you have a chronic condition, before beginning any exercise program, talk with your health care provider about the best activities for you to try.

Exercise and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones to the point where they break easily—most often in the hip, spine, and wrist. Osteoporosis is more common in women, but men also have this disease.

The good news is there are things you can do at any age to prevent weakened bones, such as including regular weight-bearing exercise in your life, eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, stopping smoking, and limiting how much alcohol you drink.

Your bones and muscles will be stronger if you are physically active. Weight-bearing exercises, done three to four times a week, are best for preventing osteoporosis. Walking, jogging, playing tennis, and dancing are examples of weight-bearing exercises. Try some strengthening and balance exercises too. They may help you avoid falls, which could cause a broken bone.