What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints, causing them to become painful and stiff. It is the most common type of arthritis in the UK and around 1 million people visit their GP about osteoarthritis every year.

Why is physical activity important for osteoarthritis?

Many people with osteoarthritis are often afraid to take part in physical activity because they think it will damage their joints and make their arthritis worse. However, there is no evidence to suggest that exercise makes osteoarthritis worse and in fact, physical activity can significantly help people who have the disease.

There are many ways that physical activity can help osteoarthritis, including:

  • It benefits your mind as well as your body – exercise releases endorphins, which help to reduce your stress levels and improve your mood
  • It helps you to maintain a healthy weight - any excess weight can add to the stress on arthritic joints
  • It helps you to build up muscle which supports your damaged joints
  • It can relieve joint stiffness and pain - regular exercise can be more effective than medication in reducing pain
  • It helps to improve your sleep patterns and quality of sleep
  • It helps to improve your overall quality of life

How much physical activity should you be doing?

If you're looking to reduce your risk of osteoarthritis or manage your current condition, you should aim to take part in the recommended amount of physical activity for your age group, as outlined in the UK Chief Medical Officer's Physical Activity Guidelines.

For adults aged 19 and over, the recommended amount is at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week. Where possible, this should be a combination of cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and balance exercises. These could include:

  • Cardiovascular activities - brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing
  • Strength activities - resistance training, Yoga, Nordic Walking, carrying heavy shopping, heavy gardening
  • Balance/mobility - Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, body balance classes

However, there are lots of different ways that you can incorporate physical activity into your daily routine and every little bit of movement can make a big difference. Here are some ideas about how to make physical activity part of your day-to-day life:

  • Try to break periods of sitting as often as possible
  • If you sit at a desk or screen all day, try some chair-based exercises
  • Do some gardening or housework
  • Take regular breaks at work to stand up and move around e.g. get a glass of water
  • Walk part of your journey to work if you can
  • When you go to the work or the shops, try parking at a further car parking space

For more information about osteoarthritis and managing your symptoms through physical activity, visit the Versus Arthritis website.