If you’re a senior with arthritis, you’ll be familiar with the pain it brings. While it’s tempting to retreat into inactivity, doing so can only worsen your condition. All you need is some help in finding the best hobbies for seniors with arthritis.
The best hobbies for seniors with arthritis keep them active without exacerbating the pain. For example, low impact hobbies like gardening, swimming, and yoga are ideal. Also, consider other hobbies like knitting, painting, and pottery. They’ll keep arthritic joints flexible, helping with dexterity.
As you can see, having arthritis doesn’t mean an end to the enjoyment and stimulating effects that hobbies can bring. So, below, you’ll find details of the 9 best hobbies for seniors with arthritis. But first, let’s get an understanding of what arthritis is and the symptoms you might experience.
What Is Arthritis and Its Symptoms?
Arthritis is a kind of umbrella term to describe chronic joint pain. However, there are many types of arthritis, and they can affect you at any age.
Is Arthritis Common?
In fact, estimates have put the number of adults suffering from arthritis in the US at around fifty-four million. That’s nearly 23% of the adult population. By 2040, that figure could rise to 26%.
The figures are more depressing for a nation where the population is increasingly older. The data showed that nearly half of the people with arthritis were aged forty-five and over.
The only positive from the data is that you’re not alone if you’re a senior with arthritis.
What Are the Types of Arthritis?
As mentioned above, the types of arthritis are many. But the ones you’ll probably be most familiar with are:
- Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition often associated with wear and tear, which can happen to anyone. While it tends to afflict older people, age alone isn’t necessarily the cause. It occurs when the cartilage that acts as a cushion between joints wears away. That leaves your bones rubbing against each other when you move your joints. You can see then why sufferers experience pain and stiffness.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune inflammatory disease. It occurs when your own immune system malfunctions. Instead of creating inflammation in your body to protect you from diseases, it causes inflammation in your joints. The inflammation can lead to permanent joint damage and spread to other organs. Gout is another form of inflammatory arthritis.
What Are the Symptoms of Arthritis?
While it depends on the type of arthritis you have, generally, the symptoms include painful and swollen joints. Along with joint stiffness, the symptoms can restrict your range of movement.
While the symptoms can be debilitating, it’s crucial for seniors to maintain physical and mental activities. Doing so can benefit your overall health and slow physical and cognitive declines that naturally occur as you age.
With this in mind, let’s turn now to the 9 best hobbies for seniors with arthritis.
Cycling is an excellent way to exercise if you have arthritis and find walking or running difficult.
Whether you cycle outdoors or use a stationary bike, it doesn’t matter. Indeed, if you’re concerned about cycling on the road or about falling off, a stationary bike is the perfect solution.
Cycling enables you to keep your joints moving and build the muscles in your legs, but without undue joint pressure. Strengthening your muscles can protect your joints and improve mobility.
And researchers have found that you get the same benefits whether you choose to do high or moderate-intensity cycling. The study participants reaped the same improvements in quality of life measurements based on a standard test known as WOMAC.
However, those who undertook the high-intensity training did show better gains. Researchers used two tests to assess physical function.
The first was the Timed Up and Go test, which you can see in the video below.
The second was the Sit to Stand test, as shown in the following video.
Essentially, the tests assess aspects of strength and mobility that are relevant to everyday life. So, any improvements you can achieve help with independence and quality of life.
Researchers found that high-intensity cycling resulted in significant improvement in these measures. While moderate-intensity cycling wasn’t as effective, participants still saw improvements.
So, it doesn’t matter if you cycle indoors or out or to a high or medium-intensity level. It seems cycling is one of the best hobbies for seniors with arthritis.
Swimming and Water Exercises
If cycling isn’t your cup of tea or your arthritis is of the type that prevents you from bending your knees, don’t worry. How about a splash in the pool?
Swimming is an ideal hobby for seniors with arthritis because it’s a no-impact exercise. Additionally, it works all your muscles instead of concentrating on just one group.
And the great advantage of swimming is that it doesn’t matter if your arthritis affects your back, hips, or knees. The weightlessness of swimming is a great equalizer. It negates the movement restrictions you might otherwise have on dry land.
Further, researchers have looked at the benefit arthritis sufferers can get from swimming. They found it was on par with those of cycling. With both, participants experienced less pain and joint stiffness. Additionally, they all saw improved physical functionality.
This was borne out by a 2017 study that looked at the effect of water-based exercises for rheumatoid arthritis. It found study participants experienced reduced pain and increased functionality as a result. That was after only eight to sixteen weeks of water-based exercise.
If doing laps in a pool sounds a little boring, give water exercises a try. You’ll get the same benefit with the water’s buoyancy supporting your body weight, making you more mobile. So, you’ll find it easier to do things like walk and jump than you would on dry land and without the impact on your joints.
This short clip shows some gentle water exercises for arthritis sufferers. As you’ll see, you can exercise while standing on the pool bottom or while floating.
Whether you choose to swim laps or workout in the water, warm water will soothe your joints, making exercise much easier. The water resistance will give you a good workout that will do wonders for your heart.
So, the evidence is there. Water-based exercise has beneficial effects for seniors with arthritis.
Another way you can stay active as a senior with arthritis, but without stressing your joints, is with dance.
According to a twelve-week 2014 study, gentle dancing reduced knee pain in seniors with arthritis. Additionally, it reduced the amount of pain medication participants took by 39%. In contrast, seniors in the study who didn’t take part in dancing said they needed 21% more pain medication.
The dance therapy used in the study was designed so that it could be performed standing or sitting. It was a version of what was known previously as the Lebed Method. You can see the type of dance movements used in the following video. It also shows in the participants how enjoyable dance can be.
As you can see, dance can be accessible to seniors with all levels of mobility. So, you shouldn’t let your arthritis hold you back from the joy that it can bring.
If you want a hobby that feeds your competitive instinct, bocce ball may be worth trying. It’s similar to bowling but uses a lighter ball. This makes it ideal if you suffer from arthritis in your hands or shoulders.
If you’re not familiar with this game, here’s a short video that provides an explanation:
You’ll have noticed from the video that you don’t need to bend too far when throwing the ball. You just need to adapt your standing position to suit any limitations you may have on bending.
You can also choose how to hold the ball depending on whether you find it easier to throw over or under-arm.
For example, holding the ball in the palm of your hand for an under-arm throw may be more comfortable if your hands are small or weak. Or, you may not be able to lift your shoulder for an overarm throw.
You can see a demonstration of the two methods in the following clip:
So, bocce is an adaptable game with a physical element, but it also involves strategic thinking. Consequently, it’ll give both your body and mind a good workout.
If none of the above appeals to you, perhaps you might like the sound of yoga.
If you think that yoga involves floor exercises, and there’s no way your arthritic knees will let you get down and back up again, there’s good news.
Yoga can be adapted to suit your limitations, including doing some exercises from a chair. You can see some examples of how in the following clip:
It’s a truism, but necessity is the mother of invention. Or, if you prefer, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. You get the picture. And given the potential benefits of practicing yoga, it’s well worth finding ways to enjoy it if you can.
For example, in 2018, researchers reviewed thirteen studies on the effect of yoga on arthritis patients. The review concluded that yoga was effective in reducing knee arthritis symptoms. It also had the benefit of increasing the participant’s functional capacity.
Anyone with an arthritic knee will know how restrictive it can be. So increasing its function is an excellent outcome.
Not only that, but regular yoga sessions also improved the participant’s overall wellbeing. That makes sense, given that pain is one of the main symptoms of arthritis, and no-one is happy when they’re in pain.
The review’s findings were reinforced by a 2019 study. It looked at rheumatoid arthritis sufferers whose condition often leads to depression. It found that just eight weeks of yoga reduced the severity of the participants’ rheumatoid arthritis. But, their depression symptoms also decreased significantly.
So, as you can see, yoga has a lot to offer you if you’re a senior with arthritis. It’s ideal if you’re looking for a relaxing, low-energy hobby that will also help with your symptoms.
Gardening is another relaxing hobby that seniors with arthritis can enjoy. And you can do so without exacerbating your condition because it’s not all about heavy lifting and digging.
According to researchers, gardening isn’t just good for physical health but also for psychological and social health. It’s a great way to get outside, where exposure to the sun can boost your all-important vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is vital for bone health. Researchers have also found that deficiencies have also been linked to depression.
And studies suggest that older skin has more trouble absorbing vitamin D, which can result in deficiencies. It’s even more problematic if you spend most of your time indoors, as that can increase the risk of not getting enough of this vitamin.
Getting out into the garden is a perfect way to avoid the risk of deficiencies, and warmth from the sun can ease pain and reduce joint stiffness. As with all exercise, you mustn’t overdo it and put unnecessary strain on your arthritic joints. So, you might need to consider adapting your garden or tools to make it easier for you with the limitations your condition imposes.
For example, if you find it hard to bend or kneel, install some raised beds or put plants in containers instead of in the ground.
You can also invest in arthritis-friendly tools. A good example is this Radius Garden 30502 Ergonomic 5-Piece Gardening Hand Tool Set. The tools have comfortable beefed up non-slip handles that you’ll find easy to hold. And the tools are lightweight too.
Or, look for long-handled tools to reduce the need to bend. Here’s a good example: Grampa’s Weeder – The Original Stand Up Weed Puller Tool with Long Handle. It’s simple yet effective, as you can see from the clip below.
Adapting your garden and tools to suit your condition will make gardening all the more enjoyable. And that’s an excellent motivator for getting out in the garden even more.
In this hi-tech age, where even seniors are embracing new technology, knitting might sound a bit old-fashioned.
However, research tells us that knitting is good for you and can enhance your overall sense of wellbeing. It has even greater benefits if you knit in a group as that increases social contact, reducing loneliness and isolation.
In another study, it was found that knitters made people happier than people who participated in musical activities.
Indeed, the creativity that results in a physical product gives a sense of purpose. And, even once you’ve satisfied the needs of family and friends, you can donate your knitting to charities that send it where it’s most needed.
If your arthritis is in your hands, you might think your knitting days are up. But, that doesn’t have to be the case. Research shows that knitting plays a role in relieving chronic pain.
That’s because knitting keeps your fingers moving, giving your fingers a workout and relieving stiffness. Still, as with any exercise, it’s a good idea to warm up your hands and fingers before a knitting session.
The following video shows the type of gentle limbering up that you can do:
You might also need to look at other things to make knitting with arthritis easier. For example, if metal needles feel too cold to your arthritic fingers, try using wooden ones. You can buy them in sets with a selection of different sized needles. So, you can experiment and see which size is best for you and adapt your knitting projects accordingly.
Sets like these BetyBedy 36PCS Bamboo Knitting Needles Set have eighteen sizes.
You can also adapt your technique if you need to, as shown in the following clip:
So, you don’t need to let arthritic hands put you off knitting.
Painting is another creative hobby that’s great for seniors with arthritis. After all, one of the great masters, Michelangelo, probably had osteoarthritis in his hands.
Other great artists like Renoir also lived with arthritis, this time, rheumatoid arthritis. Renoir continued painting despite his affliction. He did so by using exercises and adapted equipment that he devised himself.
These days, you can buy paint brushes with soft grips to help arthritic hands hold onto them. This Royal Brush Soft Grip Round Golden Taklon Fiber Paint Brush Set is just one example of what’s available. Of course, no-one will expect you to produce masterpieces. But like knitting, painting keeps your hands moving. So, it can help ease stiffness and improve flexibility.
And the creative process will lift your mood and give you a real sense of achievement.
In the same vein as knitting and painting, pottery is a therapeutic art that can help seniors with arthritis. Pottery is physical without putting excessive strains on your body. It’s also tactile, giving a feeling of satisfaction as you manipulate your clay into something new.
Pottery is gentle on your hands, and using hot water for throwing will soothe your joints as you work. Mobilizing your hands in this way can help manage arthritis pain while improving hand function.
Like many creative arts, there’s evidence that participation in an art-based activity like pottery can help reduce stress and frailty. This just adds to the sense of wellbeing that such endeavors can bring.
As you can see, as a senior with arthritis, there are several hobbies you can continue to enjoy. And the scientific evidence suggests that you can help your arthritis by doing so.
The above list of the nine best hobbies for seniors with arthritis isn’t definitive. There are many other options out there. So, choose one that suits your interests, mobilizes your joints, and stimulates your mind.
Keeping your joints moving will help relieve pain and stiffness and may even reduce your reliance on medication. Remember, for arthritis, motion is better than potions.
- Mayo Clinic: Arthritis
- CDC: Vital Signs: Prevalence of Doctor-Diagnosed Arthritis and Arthritis-Attributable Activity Limitation — United States, 2013–2015
- Statista: Share of old age population (65 years and older) in the total US population from 1950 to 2050
- NCBI: Why Is Osteoarthritis an Age-Related Disease?
- Mayo Clinic: Osteoarthritis
- Arthritis Foundation: Rheumatoid Arthritis
- NCBI: Is high-intensity interval cycling feasible and more beneficial than continuous cycling for knee osteoarthritic patients? Results of a randomised control feasibility trial
- Wikipedia: WOMAC
- PhysioPedia: Timed Up & Go Test (TUG)
- Youtube: The Timed Up and Go (TUG) Test
- Sports Rec: Sit to Stand Exercise
- Youtube: 30 Second Sit to Stand Test
- Orthoinfo: Patellofemoral Arthritis
- NCBI: Improved Function and Reduced Pain after Swimming and Cycling Training in Patients with Osteoarthritis
- NCBI: Effectiveness of Aquatic Exercises in Women With Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Randomized, Controlled, 16-Week Intervention-The HydRA Trial
- Wikipedia: Water Aerobics
- Youtube: Aquatic Jogging for Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Science Daily: Older Adults Feel Less Hip, Knee Pain When Moving to the Grove
- FHT: Lebed Method
- Youtube: The Lebed Method
- Top End Sports: Sports Ball Weight Comparison
- Youtube: How To Play Bocce Ball
- Youtube: How to Hold a Bocce Ball
- Youtube: Yoga for Arthritis: Modifying Yoga for Those With Arthritis
- NCBI: Integrative Effect of Yoga Practice in Patients with Knee Arthritis
- IOS: Impact of yoga based mind-body intervention on systemic inflammatory markers and co-morbid depression in active Rheumatoid arthritis patients: A randomized controlled trial
- Science Direct: Gardening is Beneficial for Health: A Meta-Analysis
- NHS: Vitamin D
- NCBI: Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis
- NCBI: Aging Decreases the Capacity of Human Skin to Produce Vitamin D3
- NCBI: Vitamin D Levels and Deficiency With Different Occupations: A Systematics Review
- Amazon: Radius Garden 30502 Ergonomic 5-Piece Gardening Hand Tool Set
- Amazon: Grampa’s Weeder – The Original Stand Up Weed Puller Tool with Long Handle
- Youtube: Grampa’s Weeder
- British Journal Of Occupational Therapy: The Benefits of Knitting for Personal and Social Wellbeing in Adulthood: Findings from an International Survey
- Springer: Knit One, Play One: Comparing the Effects of Amateur Knitting and Amateur Music Participation on Happiness and Wellbeing
- Originally Lovely: Knitting for Charity: Where to Donate Your Hand-Knit Goods
- Knit for Peace: The Health Benefits Of Knitting
- Youtube: Hand Arthritis Stretches and Exercises
- Amazon: BetyBedy 36PCS Bamboo Knitting Needles Set
- Youtube: Noob Knitter – Modified English Style – Knit Stitch (Great for Arthritis)
- Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine: Osteoarthritis in the hands of Michelangelo Buonarroti
- Wikipedia: Pierre-August Renoir
- NCBI: Great artists with rheumatoid arthritis: what did their disease and coping teach? Part I. Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alexej von Jawlensky
- Amazon: Royal Brush Soft Grip Round Golden Taklon Fiber Paint Brush Set
- BMJ Journals: AB1061 Is Ceramic Art Useful in Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
- NCBI: Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making
- NCBI: Long-term effects of the Montreal Museum of fine arts participatory activities on frailty in older community dwellers: results of the A-Health study
- NCBI: Participatory art-based activity, community-dwelling older adults and changes in health condition: Results from a pre-post intervention, single-arm, prospective and longitudinal study