5 Effective Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis (OA)

By Tyler Wenig, SPT

Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic condition where the joints become irritated and inflamed. This can lead to increased pain and stiffness of the joints. While it may feel difficult to move around and be active, the research shows that increasing your activity level can help manage symptoms, decrease pain, and improve overall mobility for individuals with OA. Low impact exercises are most beneficial for patients with knee OA.  Below are examples of safe and effective low impact exercises for patients with knee OA.

Walking

Walking is a great way to work on cardiovascular endurance and weight bearing, both of which benefit individuals with knee OA.  One study suggests that people with OA knee pain benefit most when they walk 6,000 or more steps per day. It is best to walk on level surfaces and a softer terrain such as a track or trail to minimize impact to your joint. 

Sit to Stand

Begin sitting upright with your feet flat on the ground underneath your knees.  Move your shoulders and head over your toes, bring your knees forward, and allow your hips to come off the chair, then push down equally into both feet to stand up. Sit back down and repeat 10-15 times. 

Straight Leg Raise

Begin lying on your back with one knee bent and your other leg straight.  Press your knee into the ground to engage your thigh muscles.  Slowly lift your straight leg until it is parallel with your other thigh, then lower it back to the starting position and repeat 20 times.

Hamstring Stretch

Begin sitting upright with your hands on your hips and one leg straight in front of you on the floor.  Slowly bend your trunk forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh and hold for 15 seconds and repeat 5 times each leg.  Make sure to keep your back straight during the exercise.

Swimming

Swimming will improve cardiovascular health and can help manage the symptoms of knee OA. Because swimming is a low impact activity, it decreases the stress on your joints which reduces irritation and inflammation.