Getting osteoarthritis (OA) symptoms under control can take some trial and error. Most treatment plans focus on medication for pain and swelling. But don’t underestimate how much can do for you. In addition to participating in low-impact exercises like swimming and light walking, add these five strengthening exercises to your weekly routine.
Try these exercises to build strong muscles to support painful arthritic joints and increase your range of motion and mobility.
- You can do all the exercises without added weight.
- As you get stronger, try adding a resistance band or ankle weight to increase the intensity.
Strengthening your quadriceps can prevent joint instability and allow for better movement in everyday life.
1. Sit on a chair or table with your knee crease slightly over the edge.
2. Extend one leg out straight, squeezing the thigh muscles at the top of the movement.
3. Bend your knee all the way, past a 90-degree angle, if able.
4. Continue this movement for 20 repetitions. Repeat on other leg.
Lying leg lifts
This exercise works the quadriceps, hip flexors, and core muscles. It’s great for those with OA in the hips or knees and can be done anywhere by lying on a bed or floor.
1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat.
2. Extend one leg out flat on the bed with your foot flexed and toes toward the ceiling.
3. Lift your leg up past a 45-degree angle, engaging the muscles along the front of the thigh.
4. Hold one count at the top and slowly lower. Try to isolate the movement to just the leg, keeping your hips and body flat.
5. Continue with 15 repetitions. Repeat on other leg. Complete 3 sets.
Wall squats with stability ball
1. Place a large stability ball against a wall and lean against the ball, resting it in the small of your back.
2. Place feet hip-width apart, approximately 2 feet away from the wall. Roll your shoulders back and look straight ahead.
3. Slowly lower yourself down into a seated position, not lowering past a 90-degree angle.
4. Squeeze your glutes and bring yourself back into a standing position, maintaining contact with the ball.
5. Repeat 15 times, rest, and repeat 3 sets.
Standing hamstring curls
1. Stand and face a wall or chair to hold on for balance. Place your feet hip-width apart. Stand tall with your gaze forward.
2. Bend one leg at the knee, bringing your foot up toward your buttocks. Don’t let your body rock back-and-forth as you do this movement.
3. Repeat 20 times on each side. Complete 3 sets.
Seated hip abduction
1. Sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight, feet together, and hands on your thighs.
2. Tie a resistance band or place a resistance loop band around your thighs just above the knee.
3. Bring your knees out to the side, squeezing through the outer glutes to initiate the movement.
4. Repeat 20 repetitions. Repeat for 3 sets.
Resistance exercises like the ones listed above are an excellent treatment option if you live with OA. Strengthening the muscles of the lower limbs can help support your joints and can ultimately lead to less pain and greater mobility.
Natasha is the owner of and is a licensed and registered occupational therapist and wellness coach. She has been working with clients of all ages and fitness levels for the past 10 years in a variety of settings. She’s an avid blogger and freelance writer and enjoys spending time at the beach, working out, taking her dog on hikes, and playing with her family.