Best Exercises for Stiff Joints: The 8 exercises you should be doing

best exercise for stiff joints

The best exercises for stiff joints are simple but extremely effective. The more we move, the more we help our joints to clear out the inflammatory cells that cause arthritis stiffness. Exercises can be effective in the morning, after activity, or in the evening when stiffness commonly occurs. These exercises can be done in standing, sitting, or even lying down. Knee bends, straight leg raise, forward bends, and shoulder rotations are just to name a few. Gone are the days your joints feel like cement blocks, hello freedom with these exercises below!

When we have osteoarthritis, our cells aren’t as efficient at clearing out inflammation. Inflammatory cells love when we don’t move, especially when we are in one position for a long period of time. They nestle in and don’t allow for much room for movement when we go to get up, thus creating stiffness. So how do we get this inflammation out of there and decrease our stiffness?!

The bottom line is, we have to keep our joints moving and avoid staying in one position for a long period of time. The more we move our muscles the less stiffness we feel. This is because we increase our blood flow which helps recycle some of the “garbage” inflammatory cells and healthy cells are brought in as replacements.

But what if you have to sit at work, stand while cooking, or lay down for sleeping? I want to give you strategies on how to easily manage your stiff joints with a few simple movements.

1. Exercises to try in standing

Trying small movements while you are sitting, standing, or lying down can make a huge difference on the stiffness you feel when you go to move. Try these simple exercises

If your knees tend to get stiff when you are cooking, cleaning, or standing for a long period of time take a look. Bending and straightening your knee a few times every hour can make a huge difference. If you would like to know the TOP 3 Myths related to knee pain that you need to overcome in order to keep your adventure alive, check out the FREE guide here.

If your low back or knees tend to feel tight after standing for a long period of time, try this below. alternating marching can help relieve stiff joints. Exercise can be one of the best ways to combat low back stiffness and pain. Complete for 30-60 seconds, every hour for optimum relief.

If you are experiencing hip stiffness, completing these lateral kicks can help to activate other muscles that don’t tend to get used as often as they should. Complete 15+ reps on each side or until the leg you are standing on becomes fatigued for optimum relief.

2. Best exercises for stiff joints when sitting:

If you are experiencing knee or hip joint stiffness after sitting for a long period of time, try this simple exercise routine below. These are some of the best exercises for stiff joints when sitting. Complete each exercise for 10-15 reps for optimum results.

If you are experiencing neck or upper back stiffness from sitting and looking at a phone, tv, or book try these exercises below! These are isometric exercises that are great for pain relief and also improve mobility. A contoured pillow may also help keep your neck in a better supported position if you notice pain while you are sleeping.

3. Exercises for stiff joints when laying down:

The best exercises for stiff joints are most effective when completed in the morning, just before getting out of bed. Joint stiffness tends to be most bothersome in the morning because of a long period of immobility (sleeping).

If you have knee stiffness follow this routine below to improve blood flow and wake your muscles up before taking on the day. During the day, a neoprene knee sleeve may also help fend off swelling and keep your joints happy!

If you have Low back stiffness, these exercises are great to relieve pain so you can get on with your day. A heating pad may also offer more pain relief to help you relax if you notice excessive stiffness.

If you have shoulder stiffness that complicates your morning routine. These exercises to help reduce pain while getting dressed and completing other morning activities. You can also use a heating pad before you get out of bed or during the day to facilitate more relaxation in your muscles.

These exercises don’t have to be rocket science. The key is consistency! The longer we stay stagnant and immobile, the stiffer your joints become. Movement is vital to preventing further joint stiffness. If you can create a consistent routine out of these exercises above, you can have more confidence in your management of your stiff joints.

Tackling stiffness is one of the first steps towards keeping your adventure alive with arthritis. Stiffness can be limiting, especially in the morning but there are steps you can take to alleviate it.

I would love it if you subscribed to my YouTube channel HERE to get updates on when I release new videos. The channel is full of videos with tips and tricks on how to manage different aspects of arthritis.


Alyssa Kuhn is a doctor of physical therapy based in Salt Lake City, UT and specialist for osteoarthritis management and joint pain relief. She is on a mission to help you find hope within arthritis and get your life back while breaking free from the pain without pain pills or surgeries.

Disclaimer: this is not personalized medical advice, educational purposes only. Please seek clearance from a physician prior to starting an exercise program. If you feel faint, dizzy or ill while completing, please stop and seek medical attention if does not resolve. You understand this will be occurring in your own home where you will accept responsibility for any potential injuries.