Osteoarthritis - Benefits of Exercise

What is Osteoarthritis (OA)?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, some call it "wear and tear" or degenerative joint disease. It occurs when the cartilage (the tissue that cushions the ends of the bone within the joint) begins to wear and breaks down. This can happen in any joint, however is more common in the weight bearing joints like our knees, hips and fingers.

Will exercise help my osteoarthritis pain?

Yes! Exercise for osteoarthritis is crucial to reduce pain and help to keep the cartilage healthy. This is why:

Cartilage needs moderate load through physical activity to regenerate itself. The articular cartilage (cartilage that covers the bones) contains no blood vessels. In order for it to receive nutrients it requires a process of dynamic loading (exercise). The cycle of loading and unloading the joint promotes the exchange of nutrients, similar to that of a sponge where fluid is drawn in and out. This promotes growth and strength. 

The cartilage works a lot like a sponge. You need to squeeze a sponge to move water through it and stop it becoming dry and brittle. Similarly, load (exercise) squeezing our cartilage is required to move nutrients around the knee to keep it healthy. Physio for OA

What exercises are best for osteoarthritis?

Exercises play a key role in reducing pain and improving movement in those who are suffering with osteoarthritis. Some of the best exercises for OA include:

  • Walking - Start out walking on flat ground and progress to hills and stairs when you are able to tolerate it
  • Aquatic (water) exercises - Exercise in the water can be extremely beneficial if you find other exercises are causing too much pain. The water helps to support your body weight and reduce the load on the joints.
  • Strengthening exercises - Strength exercises focusing on gluteals (bum muscles) and quadriceps (thigh muscles) is key. 
  • Aerobic exercise 
  • Flexibility and stretching exercises 

Benefits of exercise for Osteoarthritis:

  • Increases strength of the surrounding muscles and bones to reduce the load and stabilise the affected joint.
  • Pain relief. The release of endorphins results in less pain and increased feelings of well being
  • Exercise moves your joints through their range of motion, which will make it easier to do everyday activities, such as putting on shoes and socks. 
  • Weight control 


Exercise Recommendations for Osteoarthritis:

  • Everyone, regardless of injury, illness or age should aim to be physically active for 30 minutes a day.
  • These 30 minutes can be done in 10 minute bouts. At least twice a week, these bouts should be 20 minutes long and either maintain or increase in intensity.
  • These activities should be slightly difficult and be done on top of your normal everyday activities. This is needed to maintain good health and prevent diseases (e.g. diabetes, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure among others).

Osteoarthritis exercise considerations 

These recommendations apply to people with osteoarthritis. The ideal type and amount of exercise depends on the person’s age, abilities, functional limitations, and health status. If you have not been physically active in the past, it may be a good idea to start slowly. See how you feel, and then gently increase the intensity.

If you are struggling with ideas, just get in touch and one of our physios in Seaforth at Active Answers we will be able to steer you in the right direction and show you the best exercises for osteoarthritis pain. 



The GLAD program is designed to increase strength and reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis. Have a read to see if this may help you out. 


We run group exercise classes weekly focusing on strength and balance exercises specific to helping those with Osteoarthritis. Read more below



Active Answers Physio in Seaforth 

Michael Gilbert Physiotherapist 

Previously Known as Appleby Physiotherapy 



1-3 Burnt Street
NSW 2092
(02) 9907 9667

Active Answers Health
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