The Many Benefits of Exercise for Arthritis

Research shows that people with osteoarthritis should exercise more, not less

Research shows that people with osteoarthritis should exercise more, not less 

Exercise for arthritis is the best non-drug treatment

An older couple do their exercise for arthritis outside in the dappled sunshine.
Regular physical activity helps to improve joint range of movement and strength

Exercise is considered the most effective non-medication treatment for improving movement and reducing pain in people with osteoarthritis (OA).

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The best exercise for arthritis

We’ve outlined some of the best exercises for arthritis which you should include in your routine. They will help you to keep fit, supple and healthy.

There are three broad exercise groups that OA patients should focus on to get a holistic workout

  • Aerobic or endurance exercises for arthritis These exercises are designed to strengthen you heart and lungs. As your aerobic conditioning improves and your lungs become more efficient you build stamina. This helps to reduce fatigue & even improve your weight control as you’re burning more calories. Great examples of exercise include walking, hiking in nature, cycling, swimming or using the elliptical trainer at the gym.
  • Strengthening exercises for arthritis You don’t need to be a cross-fitter or a gym fanatic to do strength exercises! We can all benefit from improved muscle tone.  Functional strength is especially important in every day life as you need to be able to do movements – like squats in everyday life.  Find a physical therapist and have them work out a personalized training programme for you, based on your individual needs.  Then stick to the plan and in just a few short months you’ll be far healthier. 
  • Flexibility and range of motion exercises for arthritis OA patients need to focus on maintaining good range of motion and moving your joints through their full range of motion. These would include simple movement exercises and stretches. Although these exercises may seem insignificant at first, through repetition and practice the range of motion will improve and you’ll find you have a better quality of movement and lower pain levels.

There are four types of exercise especially recommended for OA patients

Water aerobics and low impact exercise is particularly beneficial for people with osteoarthritis
  • Walking improves circulation, can be done anywhere and is a low impact exercise.  If you maintain a decent pace and use a heart rate monitor you’ll see it’s a fantastic aerobic workout.  Walking also tones your muscles and lowers blood pressure, so get out into nature if you can, and go for a walk!
  • Water based exercise is perfect for anyone battling with OA.  We’re not necessarily talking swimming here! Aquatic or water based exercise is designed to help support your joints by relieving pressure on them.  It’s usually performed in shoulder-depth water.  It’s got the same aerobic benefits as regular exercise, combined with the gentle resistance training of the water.
  • Core strengtheningexercise The stronger the muscles around your tummy, pelvis and shoulders, the better your body can move. Core strengthening exercises include exercises such as Pilates and other programmes. Most of these use only your own body weight, or very light resistance. As such the load on the joints is minimal, and will therefore not aggravate your symptoms. The benefits of a stronger core are not to be underestimated. Join a Pilates class in your area, or even get some one-on-one instruction to start seeing the benefits.
  • Stretching and yoga The better your joint range of movement is, the less stiffness and limitation of everyday tasks you will have. Yoga is a good exercise for arthritis, provided you listen to your body and move gently into the poses. You can also do a simple series of stretches on a daily basis, to help maintain and improve your flexibility.

See our recommendations for the best 15 minute exercises for knee and hip osteoarthritis. 

How much exercise is good for osteoarthritis?

The recommended aerobic exercise range is five times per week, for 30 minutes per day, totalling 150 minutes per week. 

Whatever sport you prefer, be it jogging, swimming, biking or any other sport, it is important to stretch, strengthen, work at your range of motion and get your aerobic exercise time in. OhMy.Health has plenty of exercises in the “Training” section of the webpage, so be sure to check those out. Be kind to your joints…


Carron Howard

Carron is a physiotherapist with over 20 years of experience, specialised in orthopedics, rehabilitation, sports injuries, backs and necks. She is a qualified Pilates instructor with a strong focus physical fitness, injury prevention and recovery. B Physt UP, OMT 1, SPT 1
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