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Osteoarthritis exercises

Although the wear-and-tear from osteoarthritis causes painful joints, it is still important to take exercise.

Rather than making osteoarthritis symptoms worse, exercise builds-up muscles to help strengthen joints.

Aerobic exercise also releases 'feel good' hormones called endorphins and can help:

  • Reduce pain
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve general health and help weight management
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve general wellbeing.

Talk to your GP or ask for a referral to a physiotherapist before starting a new exercise programme with osteoarthritis to make sure it is safe and includes the most beneficial exercises.

Getting started

Your doctor or physiotherapist may recommend a home exercise programme for you to follow. If not, ask for recommendations.

Following this guidance is important to avoid doing the wrong type of exercise that could worsen joint pain, or overdo things too soon.

The exercise plan may include:

  • Warming up first.
  • Strengthening exercises, sometimes with small weights. For example, stronger thigh muscles (quadriceps) protect and take pressure off the knee and improve stability.
  • Aerobic exercise to get you a bit out of breath and increase the heart rate. Examples include swimming, hydrotherapy pool exercise, using an exercise bike, tai chi or a brisk walk in good quality shoes.
  • Exercises for both sides of the body even if only one joint, such as a knee, on one side of the body is affected.
  • Starting with short exercise sessions and gradually building up to longer ones.

If joints become more painful, inflamed or red, stop the exercise and talk to your physiotherapist or doctor about altering the exercise programme.

Choose the exercise programme you enjoy the most as this makes it easier for exercise to become a habit.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 13, 2016

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