Exercise for osteoarthritis

senior swimming in a pool

Regular exercise will keep your cartilage nourished, your muscles strong, and your joints flexible. Exercise will also help you to manage your body weight.

General exercise tips

  • Exercise in water to reduce the load on your joints. Try walking in the pool, swimming or doing low-impact water aerobics. 
  • Try other low-impact activities, such as the stationary bikeAvoid exercises that involve jumping and twisting.
  • If you enjoy walking, consider using a walking aid to reduce the stress on your joints while still allowing you to stay active.  A cane or walking pole can reduce the force on your hips and knees by up to 40% and may help you to walk further with less pain. 
  • Start slowly and build graduallyKeep your exercises short and easy when you start.  As you get stronger, your exercises can get harder.
  • Talk to your physiotherapist or doctor about what exercises are right for you.

Stop before you exercise too much

It can be normal to have increased pain during exercise, but it should be tolerable.  You may have pushed yourself too hard if you have high pain levels or your joint is sore for more than 24 hours after exercising.  Try exercising for a shorter period, taking breaks, or finding a new activity. 

Include a variety of exercises

  • Movement (range of motion) and stretching exercises to keep your joints flexible.
  • Strength exercises to build muscles. Strong muscles help to support and stabilize your sore joints. Muscle also burns more calories than fat.
  • Balance exercises to reduce your risk of falls. Your balance can worsen when you have a joint with osteoarthritis, and your risk of falling can increase. 

For more information on preventing falls, visit the falls prevention service and resources page.

Register for a free OASIS class

Attend an OASIS class taught by a Registered Physiotherapist to learn more about exercise and arthritis. The recommended class to take is the Exercise & Arthritis class.

Learn more about OASIS classes

Exercise resources

    • Exercises for Hand Osteoarthritis

      Learn about exercises for hand osteoarthritis. Always consult a physical therapist or physician for specific exercise advice.

    • Exercises for Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis (The Arthritis Society)

    • Exercises for Shoulder Osteoarthritis (The Arthritis Society)

    • Exercises - Trunk/Core Muscles (The Arthritis Society)

    • GLA:D Canada

      A neuromuscular exercise program for hip or knee osteoarthritis, usually delivered by physiotherapists

    • Choose to Move

      A physical activity support program in British Columbia

    • ABC Program

      A Vancouver Parks inclusive exercise program for all abilities

    • Urban Poling

      Information and videos about pole walking

    • HealthLinkBC

      Contact a qualified exercise professional by email or phone