WebMD recently published a article detailing exercises that are well suited to people who have osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee or hip, and exercises that should be avoided, as follows:
There are three key areas individuals with OA of the knee or hip need to focus on: weightbearing cardiovascular activity, to keep their bones strong and their heart healthy; muscle strengthening activity, to relieve strain on the joints; and flexibility and range of motion, to help prevent falls and keep joints mobile.
If walking for exercise is too painful, indificuals may try a recumbent bicycle. If even the recumbent bike is too much, the swimming pool offers another option.
Muscle Strengthening Activity
People may believe that lifting weights would be bad for arthritis, but some studies show that the opposite hold true. By strengthening the muscles around the joints, strength training helps to take some of the load off the arthritic joints and relieves pain.
In a recent study, older men and women with moderate knee osteoarthritis who went through a 16-week program of strength training reported an average of 43% decrease in pain and gained increased muscle strength, decreased disability, and lessened the clinical signs and symptoms of their disease. Strength training also lessens the risk of falls, which can be a major risk for people with knee and hip osteoarthritis. A study from New Zealand found that women 80 old and older showed a 40% reduction in falls with simple strength and balance training.
Individuals can help to prevent falls through the gentle, easy motions of exercises such as tai chi and easier yoga classes designed for people with arthritis, which will further improve your balance.
Flexibility and Range of Motion
There are a number of specific exercises that individuals with hip or knee OA can do to increase flexibility and range of motion around the knees and hips.
Before starting an exercise or flexibility training program, individuals are urged to check with their physician to be sure it is safe for them. Depending on their ability and comfort level, they may try these exercises 2 to 3 times per week and gradually work up to doing the exercises daily. Aim to do 2 to 3 sets of eight repetitions per side.
- Hip Exercises: Leg swings. Simply hold onto the edge of the pool, or the wall if you’re on land, and gently swing your leg out to the side, alternating sides.
Leg extensions. In the same position, extend your leg gently backward, alternating legs.
- Knee Exercises: Knee rocks. Get down on one knee as if you’re proposing marriage (with a soft mat underneath to cushion your knees). Rock gently forward, keeping your shoulders straight. This stretches the front of the knee while protecting the lumbar spine. Make sure your knee does not extend past your toes as this can strain the knee.
Straight leg raises. Sit in a chair, straighten one leg, and raise it straight out in front of you. Alternate legs.
Leg curls. If you are nimble enough, lie on the floor on your stomach, and gently bend your heel back toward your buttocks, making sure to keep your hips on the ground.
All of these exercises should be done without weights.
Exercises to avoid with OA of the knee or hip:
- Running and jogging
- Jumping rope
- High-impact aerobics
- Any activity where, at any time, you have both feet off the ground simultaneously, however briefly.