Arthritis makes your joints and muscles weak and unstable, which can throw your balance off. Popular exercises such as yoga and Pilates restore balance, improve flexibility and build strength. You can do them even if you’re living with arthritis — but with a few modifications. Here are some other balance exercises you should try:

TEAM or Twenty Exercise for Arthritis Management
The American Orthopedic Society for Sports Management (AOSSM) has created a workout that includes 20 low-impact exercises to help people with arthritis. They include balance, stretching (which helps to correct poor alignment that contributes to poor balance), and strengthening exercises. Here are five for you to try:

• Elongation stretch Lay with your back flat against the floor mat and extend your arms and legs as far as you can without discomfort. Point your toes and extend your fingers. Hold for 5 seconds.

• Knee-to-chest stretch Lay with your back flat against a floor mat. Pull your right knee to your chest, keeping the back of your head on the floor. Hold for 20-30 seconds, and then repeat with your left knee.

• Modified squat Stand in front of a chair facing forward. Place feet hip-width apart with your toes pointed out slightly and your weight evenly distributed. With shoulders back, cross your arms over your chest and lean forward slightly from your hips, keeping your back straight and tummy tight. Bending at the hip, slowly lower your buttocks toward the chair only as far as you’re comfortable. Pause, and then raise yourself up using the same body positioning. Don’t lock your knees. Try to do eight reps to start working up to 12. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between each set.

• Squat and side lift Stand beside a chair and hold on with your right hand for balance. With your feet shoulder-width apart, bend slowly at your knees and hips. Squat back as if you’re about to sit, then stop when your legs are parallel, or almost parallel (depending on your comfort level) to the floor. Keep your back flat and don’t let your knees protrude past your toes. Pause, and then push up. When you’re close to standing lift your left leg off the floor then return to the starting position. Repeat 8 to 12 times, resting for 30 to 60 seconds between each rep. Repeat with your other leg.

• Knee flexion Stand straight with your head in line with your spine, legs hip-width apart, and knees slightly bent. Place hands on the back of chair for balance. Holding your posture, raise your left heel until your lower leg is parallel to the floor. Keep your thighs parallel to each other. Hold for 1 second, and then lower leg to the ground. Do 10 to 12 reps for each leg. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat.

Visit the AOSSM website to learn all the exercises in the TEAM regimen.

Using Wii Fit for Balance
Nintendo’s Wii is no longer just for the gaming crowd. The Wii Fit game currently offers exercises in four categories — yoga, balance, aerobic and strengthening — that may improve your balance, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

To workout with Wii Fit you stand on a pressure-sensitive “balance board” to perform each exercise. You can view a 3-D model of your instructor to learn the proper technique and even get feedback on your performance, including your balance. There are also plans for more exercises to be added in the future.

General rules for exercising when you have arthritis.

  • Try to exercise even if your joints feel stiff; the workout will help to relieve this symptom.
  • Start off slowly and gradually increase the pace. Stop when you feel discomfort.
  • Time your meds carefully when you’re working out. For instance, if it takes 20 minutes for your drugs to kick in, take them no later than 2:40 p.m. if your exercise session is at 3 o’clock.