Get in Shape with Psoriatic Arthritis: Your 3-Month Plan

by Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer

Fatigue, pain, and swelling can be common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. You must, therefore, begin your exercise plan slowly, rest when you need to, and always listen to your body. You may need to vary the timing of your plan to accommodate how you are feeling each week.

Month 1

  • This plan is a slow and steady approach to getting in shape. The first month will allow your body to adjust to more movement while trying to avoid flare ups in pain.

  • Start this month by sitting less and moving more. These changes do not have to be huge modifications. Rather, slowly add activities to your weekly routine. Take a family walk after dinner, stand up more at work, and dance to your favorite music while you make dinner.

  • Focus on flexibility. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriatic arthritis tends to limit our mobility and range of motion over time. Focus this month on regaining some of the flexibility you may have lost in the colder months. Incorporate a 30-minute stretching or yoga routine at least three times a week. I find this routine easy to follow and to modify depending on how I am feeling.

  • Begin strength training. Strength training reduces pain and stiffness and increases your strength and flexibility. However, if you have not been lifting weights over the winter, it is important that you begin extremely slowly to prevent a flare-up. Movements should be done without weights in the first month. Try doing 10 squats, 10 wall push-ups, 20 seconds of staying in the plank position and 10 arm curls without weights twice a week for the first four weeks.

  • Even though the plan starts out slowly, you may need more rest than others who do not have psoriatic arthritis. Try not to get discouraged. Focus on the long-term goal of how you will feel at the end of three months.

Month 2

  • Continue working on your flexibility at least three times a week.

  • Your time in motion will increase this month and you will begin to add new cardio exercises. At least three times a week, try adding 15 minutes of walking, swimming, biking, or using the elliptical trainer. Be sure to choose low-impact exercises. Do not worry about the pace of your exercises. Keeping your body active for 15 minutes at a time is the goal. If you find that 15 minutes of cardio exercise creates too much fatigue or soreness the following days, reduce the time to meet your needs.

  • Continue your low-impact strength training two times a week. Begin to add more resistance. This can happen either with exercise bands or with hand weights. If you are using bands, start with bands with the least resistance. Begin with hand weights less than 5 pounds. Remember that less is more as your joints and muscles adjust to a new workload.

  • Listening to your body is key this month as you begin to increase your activity. Do not be discouraged if you have a bad day. Everyone has days when they feel weaker or stronger or more or less sore from exercise.

Month 3

  • The American College of Sports Medicine recommends most adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. This will be your goal by the end of this month. The 150 minutes can be broken down to meet your needs. For example, it may work best for you to keep active for 25 minutes, six days a week. And, in order to avoid pain and swelling, you may need to break the 25 minutes up into 15 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening.

  • Continue working on your flexibility. You can now use the flexibility exercises to help you either warm up or cool down from your cardio activities.

  • Continue strength training. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends training each major muscle group two or three days each week. This is your ultimate goal by the end of the third month. The weights and intensity you choose will be extremely individualized. A certified trainer may be helpful to make sure your form is correct as you increase your weights.

Paying close attention to your diet should also be a part of your three-month plan, according to Registered Dietician Eleanor Baker. “Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids several times per week may help reduce arthritic inflammation. Bone health is also associated with adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin C, found in citrus fruit, kiwi and red peppers is also important for collagen and cartilage health.”

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.

Davenport is the founder of Using the latest scientific research, she helps people live their healthiest lives via one-on-one coaching, corporate talks, and sharing the more than 1,000 health-related articles she's authored.