Exercise Tips for Those with Osteoarthrtitis

While you may worry that exercising with osteoarthritis could harm your joints and cause more painful joint, in fact, research shows quite the opposite. Research shows that people with osteoarthritis can and should exercise. Exercise is one of the effective non-drug treatments for reducing joint pain, stiffness and improving mobility in osteoarthritis.

The benefits of regular exercise include:

  • Relieves joint pains
  • Increases muscle strength
  • Promotes healthy joints
  • Increases mobility
  • Reduces stiffness
  • Maintains healthy body weight
  • Increases stamina

There are three kinds of exercise that are important for people with osteoarthritis:

  • Range of motion or flexibility exercises refers to the ability to move your joints through the full motion they were designed to achieve. These exercises help to reduce pain, relieve stiffness and keep your joint moving. These exercises should be done on a daily basis so as to maintain or even improve the flexibility of your joint. There are a number of day-to-day activities that help improve flexibility, including vacuuming, gardening and mopping.

  • Endurance or aerobic exercises improve the health of your heart and lungs, thereby reducing fatigue and increasing your stamina throughout the day. Besides that, endurance exercise also helps control your body weight by increasing the amount of calories your body burn. Examples of endurance exercise include walking, swimming and cycling.

  • Strengthening exercises help maintain or increase your muscle tone. Strong muscles can provide support and stability to a joint and protect your joint. Climbing the stairs, lifting and carrying groceries are examples of day-to-day activities that help improve your muscle strength. A 2011 meta-analysis demonstrated moderate effect sizes of strength training for reducing pain and improving physical function compared with controls.

Each type of exercise plays an important role in maintaining and improving your mobility and joint function. Before starting any new exercise program, always check with your doctor or physical therapist to ensure you are physically ready and find the specific exercise that best fits you.

Recommended Amount of Activity

Below is the recommended amount of activity for adult with arthritis:

Aerobic activity per week =

  • 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate intensity OR
  • 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous intensity OR
  • an equivalent combination* of both moderate and vigorous intensity activity; activity should be at least 10-minute episodes and preferably spread throughout the week.

Muscle strengthening activities at least 2 days per week.

Source: CDC. Physical Activity and Arthritis.

People with arthritis should also include daily flexibility exercises to maintain essential joint range of motion and do balance exercises if they are at risk of falling.

Examples of Moderate, Vigorous Intensity Aerobic Activities & Balance Activities

Moderate Intensity

Vigorous Intensity

Balance Activities

  • Brisk walking
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Mowing the grass
  • Tai Chi, yoga
  • Jogging/running 
  • Swimming
  • Jumping rope
  • Aerobic dance
  • Tai chi
  • Backward walking, side stepping, heel and toe walking 
  • Standing on one leg


  1. Exercising with osteoarthritis
  2. Physical Activity & Arthritis
  3. Osteoarthritis
  4. CDC. Physical Activity and Arthritis.
  5. Jansen MJ, Viechtbauer W, Lenssen AF, Hendriks EJ, de Bie RA. Strength training alone, exercise therapy alone, and exercise therapy with passive manual mobilisation each reduce pain and disability in people with knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review. J Physiother 2011;57(1):11e20. Epub 2011/03/16. PubMed PMID: 21402325.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity and Arthritis Overview.