Longevity Exercise Physiology and Personal Training Edgecliff, Lindfield, Marrickville, Randwick, Drummoyne, Balmain and Bella Vista today look at osteoarthritis and the role exercise can play.

The association of “wear and tear” with osteoarthritis gives the impression that movement is responsible for the progression of the disease. Wrong! In fact, exercise is considered the most effective, non- drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in individuals with osteoarthritis.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of arthritis affecting 1 in 11 Australians. It involves the breakdown of hyaline cartilage covering articular surfaces in joints. This results in narrowing of the joint space and formation of bony spurs (osteocytes.) This can cause joint pain, stiffness, loss of function and range of motion. It can affect any joint, most commonly hands, knees, hips, lower back, and neck. Osteoarthritis can happen at any age, but most commonly over the age of 50.

Interestingly, the diagnostic criteria for osteoarthritis begins with pain and functional limitation rather than radiography. Individuals can have evidence of joint degradation and be asymptomatic. We must ‘treat the man, not the scan.’ Osteoarthritis is a clinical diagnosis, not a radiographic diagnosis. Decisions in exercise prescription and surgical intervention should be made around that individual’s limitation not just what shows on the x-ray.

There is a strong correlation between pain, disability, and osteoarthritis. But what is the causal factor? Pain is our brains way of interpreting danger and is not a measure of tissue health. Pain related inactivity can result in significant deconditioning in our muscles, bones and joints and often leads to an increase in disability and risk of falls.  It can also increase your risk of developing metabolic lifestyle diseases such has cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Low impact aerobic exercise is best, including, walking, swimming, and cycling. Aquatic exercises relieve pressure of your body’s weight on the affected joints while providing resistance to promote improved strength.

I have osteoarthritis, what type of exercise should I be doing

The Australian Physical guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise and two strength training sessions a week. Having osteoarthritis does not make you exempt! Not only will meeting these guidelines improve your overall health and wellbeing, but it will also assist in managing your pain associated with osteoarthritis.

  • Low impact aerobic exercise is best, including, walking, swimming, and cycling. Aquatic exercises relieve pressure of your body’s weight on the affected joints while providing resistance to promote improved strength. Walking is great for preserving bone mineral density and reduces your risk of fractures. All these exercises also have positive effects for your heart health, blood pressure and overall fitness.


  • Regular strength training has been shown to reduce pain and increase strength and function in individuals with osteoarthritis. Strong muscles help support and protect the joints that are affected by arthritis. Be sure to include exercises that work the muscles around the affected joint.


Is exercise still important if I am having a joint replacement?

In short, yes! A structured exercise program including aerobic exercise and resistance training both pre and post-surgery play a strong role in ensuring an optimal outcome. Exercise capacity is a strong predictor for preoperative morbidity or mortality. Individuals with higher anaerobic thresholds are at less risk, and those whose anaerobic threshold is not sufficient may not be cleared for surgery. Obesity is also a risk factor that can lead to complications during surgery. An appropriate exercise program will also allow you to improve your pain and function pre surgical intervention.

After surgery, beginning a rehabilitation program immediately is essential. Ideally patients are mobilised out of bed just 4 hours post operation! By week 6, most patients will be walking without aids have 90 degrees of knee flexion. The initial 6 weeks of rehab will include mostly isometric and open chain exercises before introducing resistance training and larger gross motor tasks such as sit to stands. It is important to continue with an exercise program post your rehab intervention to reduce your risk of complications in the future and continue to be able to complete all activities of daily living.

The evidence is clear, exercise is a must for anyone living with osteoarthritis. However, here at longevity we understand starting an exercise program may be scary or overwhelming. Contact Longevity Personal Training and Exercise Physiology Edgecliff, Lindfield, Marrickville, Randwick, Drummoyne, Balmain, Bella Vista on 1300 964 002 to enquire today if you need assistance when it comes to an osteoarthritis program that is specific to you.

Written by Georgia Wassall