While you may worry that exercising with osteoarthritis could harm your joints and cause more pain, research shows that people can and should exercise when they have osteoarthritis. Exercise is considered the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in osteoarthritis.

Three kinds of exercise are important for people with osteoarthritis: exercises involving range of motion, also called flexibility exercises; endurance or aerobic exercises; and strengthening exercises. Each one plays a role in maintaining and improving your ability to move and function.

Speak with your doctor or physical therapist about exercising with osteoarthritis and the specific exercises that are best for you.

Range of motion/flexibility: Range of motion refers to the ability to move your joints through the full motion they were designed to achieve. When you have osteoarthritis, pain and stiffness make it very difficult to move certain joints more than just a little bit, which can make even the simplest tasks challenging.

Range-of-motion exercises include gentle stretching and movements that take joints through their full span. Doing these exercises regularly – ideally every day – can help maintain and even improve the flexibility in your joints.

Aerobic/endurance: These exercises strengthen your heart and make your lungs more efficient. This conditioning has the added benefit of reducing fatigue, so you have more stamina throughout the day. Aerobic exercise also helps control your weight by increasing the amount of calories your body uses. Furthermore, this type of exercise can help you sleep better and improve your mood.

How much should you exercise? Current recommendations for 

150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week

OR

75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week

OR

an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous exercise


Strengthening: Strengthening exercises help maintain and improve your muscle strength. Strong muscles can support and protect joints that are affected by arthritis.