Which type of exercise is best for my arthritis and me? 39



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If you live with the daily pain and discomfort of arthritis, you’re not the only one. In Australia, an estimated 3.85 million have arthritis, this is 18 per cent of the population (1 in 5). One of the most important steps in successfully beginning an exercise program is grading the arthritis you have and then selecting an appropriate exercise program based on the grade. For example if you have severe knee osteoarthritis and are doing lots of squats, you are doing the wrong thing!

Your grade of arthritis will enable you to choose what type of exercise to start off with. The Kellgren and Lawrence system for grading osteoarthritis is based on x-rays and consists of Normal, Grade I, Grade II, Grade II and Grade IV. The more severe the grade, the less weight you want to put through the joint. So find out the grade of your arthritis by getting your local G.P to order an x-ray.

The grade and exercise type table below can be used as a general guide and I use this type of reasoning to get my clients started on the right path:

Grade 1

  • Walking (below 10,000 steps)
  • Strength training that can be gradually increased with supervision
  • Tai Chi Pilates and Yoga Specific stretch program


Grade 2-3

  • Start with hydrotherapy/water based exercise for 1-2 weeks
  • Walking (2500 – 7500 steps)
  • Gentle strength training with supervision
  • Tai Chi Pilates and Yoga with close supervision and modified exercises


Grade 4

  • Start with hydrotherapy and water based exercises for 4-8 weeks
  • Avoid weight bearing exercises such as squats and lunges
  • Isometric strength training for affected joints
  • Walking limited to 1000 – 3000 steps

Hydrotherapy is an excellent way to start out with severe arthritis whilst someone with mild to moderate arthritis will find walking in the park, Tai chi or a bicycle ride, a comfortable transition. A recent study looking at chronic knee and Hip Osteoarthritis sufferers reported that access to either hydrotherapy or Tai Chi classes can provide large and sustained improvements in physical function for many older, sedentary individuals.


Our next exercise blog will look into each exercise type and why they can help individuals with arthritis.


Do you have arthritis? How do you ease the symptoms? Have you tried any of the above? Tell us below.

Andrew Ross

Andrew Ross is owner at Go Go Physio, a mobile physiotherapy business in Sydney. He has a special interest in arthritis, hip/groin pain and acupuncture. www.gogophysio.com.au

  1. I manage most of my arthritis with these methods but what can you do for arthritis of the hands which is my worst problem?

    3 REPLY
    • Hi Barbara,I have rheumatoid arthritis,in my shoulder,hands and feet.I was in terrible pain.It started off in my shoulders then hands and feet,my GP diagnosed it.I waited 9 weeks before I saw a rheumatologist,I am now on a couple of drugs that curb the disease and I am nearly pain free.Have you spoken to your DR because they can get you pain free.All the best!

    • I had it something awful in my thumbs, Turmeric has helped so much, have recommended it to others which has given them relief also. I buy Blooms brand Curcumin 600 plus.

    • Hi Barbara,

      Thanks for reading my article. I have a blog on hand arthritis. I am hoping this will be published on this site in the near future 🙂


  2. Why does ‘Starts at 60’ require me to fill in a form before allowing me to read the posted article?If this is going to be mandatory I wont be bothered with your page in the future.

    7 REPLY
  3. I have osteo and rheumotoid arthritis and I do a lot of walking it seems to help just keep moving I think

  4. I went to a Sports MEdicine clinic at the hospital as I do a lot of bushwalking and for the first time I was having trouble with one of my knees. I use an exercise machine, but of course I don’t use the leg extension on it as they are known as ‘knee killers’ He told me my front leg muscles, quadriceps, were weak and they needed to be strong to take the edge of my knees when I walk, especially down a lot of steps, as you do in bushwalking. The exercise he suggested is simple. Say, for right leg, you sit down and place the palm of your right hand on the top left hand side of your knee. Push up with your leg and push down with your hand, just letting the leg push upwards slightly more strongly, 30cm or so, thus contracting the quads. Ten times each side each day. It sounded wimpy, but after a month I noticed a little bulge of muscle and have had no further problems.

    1 REPLY
  5. Hey guys, try Colostrummax, natural and works treat. My Osteo uses it. So it must be good. If you want to know more info PM me.

  6. I asked this question too, June, and didn’t receive a satisfactory answer.

    1 REPLY
    • Hi Chris,they have responded this afternoon, system problem, registration only required if you wanted to register to attend event.xx

  7. I was Grade 3 two years ago . I try to be careful with lunges and squats . Lunges hurt my knees more but I can lift my knees high in front . My doc. said no running or fast walking Walking backwards doesn’t hurt but walking forwards does a little .

  8. Found this very helpful I had a hipreplacement in my 50 s and I think my left one will need doing soon! Not much fun , but would rather have that that a migrine thanks for all the tips !

  9. I hope this will help.Put some baby oil in the hottest water you can stand and soak your hands in there.Done on a regular basis it does give relief for Arthritis of the hands.My husband had it bad in his hands along with other places and he first was given this treatment at the hospital and we continued on with it.

  10. Have Osteoarthritis everywhere you can imagine as well as face and rib cage cartilidge. I keep busy within my limitations, walk no more than 3kms a round trip. Do exercises for which ever area’s are hurting. Have knee lnjections and panadol. At only 58 yrs old I find it hare to slow down and accept my limitations.

    1 REPLY
    • Hi Desiree, they have responded this afternoon, system problem which they say they have now fixed.See above post.xx

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