Exercise Choices for Arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Osteoporosis


People with arthritis should always discuss their exercise plans with their doctor. Some exercises may off-limits when there is acute arthritic inflammation, swollen joints, or for people particular types of arthritis. The amount and type of exercise for each individual depends on:-

  type of arthritis

  joints involved

  degree of inflammation

  stability of joints

  joint replacements

  other limitations (such as degree of bone deformation porosity, medication)


Exercise choices may include:-

        Physiotherapy Specifically designed to include all the 6 types of exercises that are most suitable for arthritic patients. A qualified and professional therapist will ensure that each of the 6 types of exercises is adequately represented.


        Walking - An easy and gentle exercise which is pleasurable and thus has high degree of compliance. It helps build strength and maintain joint flexibility of the hip sockets, knees and ankles. It helps maintain bone health which in turn reduces the risk of osteoporosis.


        Tai Chi - A gentle very low impact aerobic exercise performed with slow circular motion. It relaxes both body and calms the mind. Its various movements allow a range of movements and some mild joint exercises. The slow fluid movements are mildly isometric. Shifting of weight from foot to foot and footwork in slow motion strengthens the muscles and ligaments of the limbs. If done properly with slow deep breathing, it is also aerobic. Tai Chi is also good for blood circulation and balance.


        Chi Kung Similar to Tai Chi basically any exercises related to any combination of movement, deep breathing, mental focus and mental imagery. Very flexible - can incorporate various exercises from physiotherapy, Tai Chi, yoga, callisthenics etc. Can easily tailor to the individual type of arthritis, patient, and degree of pain or incapacity. For example, various joint rotation and range of motion exercises can be added in.


        Ba Gua similar to Tai Chi but more vigorous and involve more twisting and rotational movements. It is performed at a faster speed than Tai Chi. An excellent exercise for joint stiffness.


        Hydrotherapy / swimming / water aerobics Allows range of motion, joint rotation of shoulders, spine, elbows, knees, hip, and ankles, as well as muscle strengthening for those who have difficulty in exercising due to excess weight or difficulty due to problems with hip, knees and ankle joints. Can relax sore muscles. Warm water helps ease pain and soothes the muscles.


        Dancing - Pleasurable and sociable, and thus has high degree of compliance. Provides good range of motion and exercise of the joints as well as muscle and ligament strength.


        Power Walking Walking with light weights provides benefits of walking plus more strengthening of muscles and aerobic lung capacity.


        Bicycling / cycling - low impact aerobics and endurance exercise that not only provide joint rotation for the hip socket joints, knees and ankles, but also strengthen muscles of the legs and lumbar.


        Stretching Helps flexibility and full range of motion. Improves the tone of ligaments. Helps relieve stiffness. All arthritic exercise should contain warm-up and stretching prior to the main exercise.


        Weighting Training Improve strength of muscles and ligaments. These are more vigorous than flexibility exercises and are usually done every other day


        Yoga - has stretches, deep breathing, relaxation, isometric holding of postures provides stretching, range of motion exercises, muscle strengthening and aerobics capacity. Use caution during acute inflammation and pain. Avoid excess torque or pressure on the joints.


        Calisthenics /Aerobics - Pleasurable and sociable, and thus has high degree of compliance. Provides good range of motion and exercise of the joints as well as improving muscle strength and aerobic capacity. Aerobic exercise improves heart, lung and muscle function. Current recommendations for regular aerobic activity are for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity on most days of the week. Low impact type is more suitable for arthritic patients. Consult a doctor before deciding on this option.


        Running / jogging perform only gentle jogging and on soft surfaces such as grass or on a sandy beach. Walking may be a better option as jogging may cause too much stress to the knee and ankle joints. Consult a doctor before deciding on this option.



Patients with arthritis or osteoporosis should consult a doctor before choosing or engaging in exercises.


Written by John Chow, a practitioner of Chinese medicine, acupuncturist, masseur, healer and teacher of martial arts and spiritual paths in Melbourne, Australia.

Copyright:- No part of this article can be used, quoted, copied in any form without the permission from the author. For further information on this article, please contact John Chow at vajra_master@yahoo.com.


Legal caveat:-

The information provided above is for general reference only. Although the author(s) has attempted to be as thorough as possible in compiling the information in this article(s), no legal responsibility nor liability is accepted for any errors or omissions. The information is presented for educational purposes only. Please refer any medical matter to your doctor before acting on any health-related information.