What are the Different Exercises for Osteoarthritis?

Marjorie McAtee

Exercises for osteoarthritis can have a number of benefits. Exercise can help those with osteoarthritis build and maintain joint strength and range of motion. It can help strengthen muscles, reduce pain and stiffness in joints, and prevent injury. Exercises for osteoarthritis include aerobic exercises, strength-training exercises, and range-of-motion exercises.

A healthy hip and one with osteoarthritis.
A healthy hip and one with osteoarthritis.

Exercising for osteoarthritis can help patients maintain joint range of motion, because it stimulates the movement of natural fluids through the joint to strengthen cartilage. Strengthening the muscles can help stabilize the joints and protect them from impact. Exercise can help patients to maintain a healthy weight, which removes excess strain from the joints. Exercise can help alleviate the feelings of depression, anxiety, and helplessness that arthritis sufferers often feel.

A picture of a healthy spine and one with osteoarthritis.
A picture of a healthy spine and one with osteoarthritis.

Strengthening exercises work on the muscles that stabilize the joints. Strengthening these muscles generally helps to increase their ability to support the joint. This can have a cushioning effect on the joint, reducing the pain and stiffness that can often come about as a result of impact from normal daily activities. Strength-training exercises are also believed to strengthen bones and cartilage, to help minimize the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

A hand with osteoarthritis in the thumb.
A hand with osteoarthritis in the thumb.

Experts generally recommend that strength-training exercises for osteoarthritis be performed every other day. No more than six to eight repetitions per set are typically recommended. Osteoarthritis patients are typically advised to begin a strength-training program slowly, using small weights and few repetitions until they begin to build muscle strength.

Swimming is ideal for those with osteoarthritis.
Swimming is ideal for those with osteoarthritis.

Range-of-motion exercises for osteoarthritis can help patients maintain a full range of motion in the affected joints. Range-of-motion exercises help move fluid through the joints to relieve pain and stiffness and support cartilage growth. Range-of-motion exercises are to be used largely on the affected joints. Experts generally recommend that this type of exercise be performed daily.

Aerobic exercises can help to build cardiovascular endurance. Aerobic exercise is considered especially important for osteoarthritis sufferers because it burns calories and can help in maintaining a healthy body weight. Excess body weight generally puts excess strain on joints, and can worsen osteoarthritis symptoms. Aerobic exercises for osteoarthritis should be low impact. Walking, cycling and swimming are considered ideal low-impact aerobic exercises.

Experts typically recommend that arthritis sufferers perform aerobic exercises for 30 minutes, three days a week. Aerobic exercise sessions should generally include a warm up and cool down period preceding and following the workout.

Physicians often advise patients with osteoarthritis to do strength-building exercises on alternate days.
Physicians often advise patients with osteoarthritis to do strength-building exercises on alternate days.

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