Osteoarthritis and Exercise

Learn how to best manage osteoarthritis of the hip and knee with exercise. Reduce your symptoms and improve your mobility.

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Lesson Outline

Osteoarthritis, sometimes referred to as OA, is a common condition that affects our joints, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

By taking this short, interactive lesson, you will learn the answers to the following questions:

  • How common is OA of the hip and knee?
  • Is it a normal part of aging?
  • How can you best manage the symptoms of OA with a lifestyle plan that includes exercise?
  • What kinds of exercises and physical activities should you be doing?
  • What role does managing your weight play in an effective self-management plan?

Meet Cynthia and Joe and learn what changes they made to reduce their osteoarthritis symptoms and improve their quality of life.

(Estimated time to complete - 15 minutes)

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Lesson Resources

Exercises for Osteoarthritis of the Hip


Exercises for Osteoarthritis of the Knee



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What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects our joints, causing pain, swelling, and/or stiffness. We have joints throughout our bodies. They are the places where bones meet so you can bend and move.  Knees, hip, and hands are the joints most commonly affected by this type of arthritis.

It is sometimes called degenerative joint disease. This kind of arthritis wears away the cartilage that covers the ends of each bone in a knee or hip, so it is often described as a "wear and tear" disease.

Artistic Passions
The job of the cartilage is to act as a cushion between the bones and to join tissue together in the knee or hip. If you have osteoarthritis, the cartilage or cushion becomes rough and might even wear away altogether. The bones then rub against one another, causing pain and slowing down or stopping movement such as walking, climbing stairs, and bending down. Sometimes, you may hear a grating sound when the bones rub together. You may also experience stiffness and swelling around a joint.

Currently, there is no cure for osteoarthritis. Drug treatments have only modest benefits on pain and function, with significant potential side effects.
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How do you know if you have it?

If you have persistent pain, aching, or stiffness of your knees or hips when you move them that is not a result of a recent injury, then you should see your health care professional for an assessment. Osteoarthritis tends to get worse with time and can make it challenging to perform day-to-day activities as we age.

To make a diagnosis, your health care provider will take a history asking about your symptoms and give you a physical exam. Generally, if you are 40 years or older, you won’t need an x-ray or other types of imaging to confirm a diagnosis.

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DISCLAIMER: Many of our Blog Posts and e-learning lessons were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content identifies activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations, such as social distancing and frequent hand washing. Some of the activities suggested in our Blog Posts and e-learning lessons may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with the current social distancing recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.


Anthony Levinson

Anthony J. Levinson, MD, MSc, FRCPC

Neuropsychiatrist, Professor; Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University

Wilson, Janie_06

Janie Wilson, PhD 

Professor, Department of Surgery, McMaster University


Oren Cheifetz, PhD, BSc. PT

Assistant Clinical Professor, Rehabilitation Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University

Angela Accettura

Angela Accettura, BSc. PT

Advanced Practice Physiotherapist, Hamilton Health Sciences

Al Cividino

Alfred A. Cividino, MD, FRCPC, FACR

Professor & Director, Division of Rheumatology, McMaster University

About this Project

The latest scientific evidence on this topic was reviewed and assessed for accuracy by our team of experts in osteoarthritis and exercise. There are no conflicts of interest. This resource was first published on March 12, 2020.

Lesson References

  1. Prevalence of osteoarthritis, by age group and site of joint pain, household population aged 20 or older diagnosed with arthritis, Canada excluding territories. Statistics Canada, 2009. Date Modified: 2015-11-27.
  2. Osteoarthritis, Care for Adults with Osteoarthritis of the Knee, Hip or Hand - Patient Reference Guide, Health Quality Ontario.
  3. Knee Exercises, Hip Exercises, and Standing Exercises, Patient Education Handouts, Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation, 2005.
  4. Arthritis Facts and Myths, Public Health Agency of Canada, 2010.
  5. Handbook for Canada’s Physical Activity Guide for Healthy Active Living. Public Health Agency of Canada.

Academic References

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  3. Ashworth NL et al., 2005. Home versus center based physical activity programs in older adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jan 25;(1).
  4. Bartels EM et al., 2007.  Aquatic exercise for the treatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Oct 17; (4).
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  25. Jansen MJ et al., 2011. Strength training alone, exercise therapy alone, and exercise therapy with passive manual mobilization each reduce pain and disability in people with knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review. J Physiotherapy. 57(1):11-20.
  26. Joint Action on Arthritis: A Framework to Improve Arthritis Prevention and Care in Canada (www.arthritisalliance.ca, 2012).
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  30. Keogh JW et al. 2018. Is high-intensity interval cycling feasible and more beneficial than continuous cycling for knee osteoarthritic patients? Results of a randomised control feasibility trial. PeerJ Mary 9:6.
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