Exercise and Osteoarthritis

Wk of Aug 1 Blog cover pic

Did you know that 1 in 11 Australians have Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the break down of cartilage covering the ends of bone in our joints, most commonly the hands, hips and knees. It can cause pain, stiffness and swelling, and can often interfere with our every day life.

So, how can we prevent osteoarthritis?

Some of the major risk factors are obesity, previous joint injury, repetitive joint loading tasks, aging, and being female (this especially refers to knee osteoarthritis and the distribution of stress going through the knee joint due to the wider angle of the hips). Some of these factors such as injury, gender and age are out of our control, so what can we do to help to manage Osteoarthritis if we do have it?

There is a common MYTH that exercise will make osteoarthritis worse, however research has shown that exercise is actually one of the BEST management strategies there is. We can help to alleviate symptoms and the impact of osteoarthritis on our daily activities by achieving the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines recommendation of at least 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise each week, and specifically incorporating the following exercise modes into our routines:

  1. Flexibility exercise– this helps to maintain a large range of movement in our joints as well as promote fluid movement to lubricate the cartilage.
  2. Strengthening exercise– by strengthening the muscles around our joints, our muscles are better equipped to take on load, therefore reducing the amount of load that is going through the bones and joints. Being strong also has the added benefit of making our daily tasks such as lifting and moving objects easier.
  3. Aerobic exercise (e.g. walking or swimming)- As we know, aerobic exercise has multiple benefits for our health including weight loss, improved fitness and more as outlined in our Heart Health Blog. Specific to Osteoarthritis, aerobic exercise improves circulation to get the fluid flowing through our joints and reduce friction.


All in all, while we can’t necessarily prevent or ‘cure’ osteoarthritis, we can stop it from getting in the way of our daily lives by staying active and strong.


Keely MacLean