Should I Exercise If I Have Osteoarthritis?

Everyone experiences muscle aches and joint pains at one point or another. For the most part, it’s due to overuse or underuse of muscles. But this isn’t always the case.

Osteoarthritis is a form or arthritis that affects millions of people around the world. It is a degenerative disease that commonly affects joints in the knees, hands, hips and spine. It occurs when the cartilage (tissue) that cushions the joints deteriorates.  When the cartilage wears down completely, bone will end up rubbing on bone causing excruciating pain.


  • Pain
  • Difficulty moving affected joints
  • Swollen joints
  • Tender joints
  • Pain and stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Muscle atrophy

If you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and are wondering if you should continue exercising, experts say exercise is a good way to manage the condition and even help prevent it from worsening.

Benefits of Exercise

But how exactly can people with osteoarthritis benefit from exercise? Let’s take a closer look:

1. Exercise helps eliminate excess weight.

If you need to lose weight to lower the pressure on your joints, then exercising can help you achieve exactly that. You can also supplement it with a well-balanced diet to get the results you want faster.

2. Exercise strengthens the muscles the support the affected joints.

It’s common for people who suffer from this medical condition to limit their movement as moving can cause a lot of pain. But when you don’t move, your muscles deteriorate and you lose them over time. Without muscles, the joints will get affected even more. Strengthening the muscles that supporting your joints will reduce the load that your joint receives.

3. Exercise improves the joints’ range of motion.

When it comes to range of movement and flexibility, if you don’t use a particular part of the body, then the joint in that area becomes stiff, worsening your osteoarthritis symptoms.

Exercises to Avoid

There’s no doubt that exercising is highly beneficial to those with osteoarthritis. However, high impact activities should be avoided. These include:

  • Running – it puts a lot of strain on the knee and hip joints, and at the same time speed up the damage to the cartilage.
  • Sports – Sports like basketball, tennis and football can make osteoarthritis worse over time, and also lead to tendon and muscle injuries.
  • Plyometric exercises – these high intensity and high impact exercises involve explosive movements which can be very hard on the joints.

Best Exercises for People with Osteoarthritis

Any low impact exercise that is done at the right intensity and pace is good for someone with this condition.

1. Strengthening exercises

Perform exercises that strengthen the muscles around the hips and knees, two of the joints most often impacted by osteoarthritis. Spend 10 minutes warming up to increase blood flow to the muscles and make the muscles more pliable. Start with easy ones, and as you develop more strength and mobility, you can opt for more challenging exercises.

  • Sit to stand
  • Mini wall sit
  • Knee extension
  • Hip abduction
  • Step ups

2. Stretching exercises

Stretching relieves stiff muscles and at the same time improve your range of motion.  Stretches can be dynamic – moving the muscles and joints actively through their full range of motion; or static, in which you hold the muscle in a stretched position for a bit of time.

3. Aerobic exercises

These are also referred to as cardio workouts and they have amazing health benefits, burn calories, and improve your overall fitness.

Some low impact aerobic exercises you can try are:

  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Cross trainer
  • Low impact dance classes

If you want to start exercising and you are worried doing so will worsen your osteoarthritis consider these tips to safely build your strength and improve your range of movement.

Here are other exercise suggestions for people with osteoarthritis:

Exercises for Osteoporosis, Osteopenia and whole body Osteoarthritis

Category: Featured