Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that most commonly affects the hands, knees, hips and spine. It is characterised by joint pain and stiffness.
It is a common misconception that osteoarthritis is worsened by exercise, increasing joint damage and pain. However, if the mode and intensity is selected appropriately, exercise can have the same benefits for those with osteoarthritis as those without.
These benefits include: improved aerobic fitness, increased muscular strength and endurance and improved flexibility. Additionally, it can improve function and reduce pain and swelling in the affected joints. Associated weight loss can also slow the disease progression by reducing pressure on the joints.
Exercise for those with osteoarthritis should be gradually progressed, while protecting the affected joint/s. It should consist of:
- Some form of aerobic exercise: cycling and swimming are good options as they are low or non-weight bearing and thus place less stress on the hips and knees
- Strengthening exercises: it is important to strengthen the muscles around the affected joints to provide them with stability
- Flexibility exercises: these are important to reduce joint stiffness and maintain a pain-free range of motion
So if you have osteoarthritis, look at exercise as an opportunity to improve your condition, not something that should be avoided as a result of it!