If you suffer from painful, aching joints from arthritis (like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis), fibromyalgia, or you simply hurt from a lot of physical labor, exercise is probably one of the last things you want to do. It’s understandable to feel apprehensive to training with painful, aching joints. Your mind is just trying to protect the body as it send signals that say, “This hurts. Don’t do it!” The problem with staying sedentary because you hurt lies in the fact that your health has nowhere to go but down when you choose to forego exercise. Your risk for chronic health conditions skyrockets, and if you suffer from arthritis, the inactivity could actually be causing your aching joints to get worse!

Training with painful, aching joints may not be the most comfortable experience, but it can actually reverse many of the effects of the pain. Women, obese, overweight, and inactive people suffer from arthritis the most, so these are the exact people who need to push themselves to exercise. Your bones and joints need the impact of exercise for strength, and your joints need the lubrication that riding a bike (for example) can provide. Get clearance from your doctor (which shouldn’t be a problem, as they probably encourage it!) and get started.

If you have arthritis, fibromyalgia, or any other form of constant joint pain, focus on the following exercise guidelines to keep your joints happy and your body healthy:

Low-Impact Exercises. You don’t need to over-stress your joints by trying to run 10 miles. Mix it up and try some water aerobics, rowing, biking (stationary or moving), and elliptical work. If your joint pain happens to be in the elbow, hold off on the rowing.

Warm-Up and Cool-Down. You may need to do this longer than the average exerciser. Don’t ever dive right into working out. Your joints will get inflamed quickly. A cool-down is just as important as the warm-up, and the two should be similar.

Stretch. Light stretching should be done more often than you think. Make it a part of your daily routine, and never over-stretch. Always stretch after a warm-up. Your joints must be taken through their full range of motion daily to stay mobile.

Keep The Reps High, Intensity Low. When you do resistance training, keep the weight light and the reps high. Your workouts also don’t need to be too strenuous. Always stay in your comfort level. Don’t be afraid to push yourself as you get stronger and in better shape, but listen to your body and rest when you need to rest. Focus on strengthening the muscles around the joint. A lot of joint pain comes from weakness in the muscles, therefore causing the joint to do the majority of the work. If your knee aches, strengthen the quads, hamstrings, and calves. If your elbow hurts, strengthen the forearms, biceps, and triceps.

Consistency Is Key. Something is better than nothing. You have to stay consistent to reap the full benefits that training can bring. Keep the workouts new and exciting. As mentioned above, there are a number of different ways to do low-impact exercises that can each be fun and challenging.

Ice. Ice for at least 10 minutes after workouts to keep the inflammation at bay. Decreased inflammation means decreased pain.