1. Health

Resistance Exercise Helps Knee Osteoarthritis

Resistance Exercise Improves Strength and Reduces Pain


Updated October 15, 2008

Resistance exercise can improve muscle strength and physical function in people with knee osteoarthritis. Many people with knee osteoarthritis also experience decreased pain with resistance exercise.

Resistance Exercise Defined

Resistance exercise is any exercise where muscles contract against an external resistance which can come from dumbbells, weight machines, elastic tubing or bands, soup cans, your own body weight, or any other object that forces your muscles to contract.

The Effectiveness of Resistance Exercises for Arthritis

Researchers in Sydney, Australia, reviewed 18 previous studies that assessed the effectiveness of resistance exercise on knee osteoarthritis. There were 2,832 people enrolled in the studies which utilized resistance machines, free weights, isometric exercise, and elastic bands. Resistance exercise improved muscle strength and self-reported pain and physical function in participants from a majority of the 18 studies.

The goal of resistance exercise is to strengthen muscle groups around affected joints, stabilize and protect affected joints, and improve mechanics of the joints to reduce stress on the joints.

Arthritis Patients Need to Start Slowly

An arthritis patient, who is for the most part deconditioned, must begin a program of resistance exercise gradually. You may only begin with 2 or 3 repetitions of an exercise. Recommended progression may be building up to 10 to 12 repetitions, for 1 to 3 sets, 2 to 3 days a week. Many exercises may need to be modified to allow for physical limitations caused by arthritis. The exercise program must be designed for the individual after considering his strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.

What You Should Do

People with osteoarthritis are advised to talk to their doctor. Discuss your limitations and your expectations for resistance exercise. Some types of arthritis do not respond well to resistance training. Be sure to ask your doctor if you can safely proceed.

Also consult with a physical therapist or personal trainer. Discuss which exercises may or may not be appropriate for you. You must have this discussion because certain exercises may worsen your arthritis symptoms.

Consider a supervised exercise program in a gym as opposed to a home gym. Besides the availability of more equipment, the supervision is invaluable. In a supervised setting, you will likely feel confident and motivated to improve and progress with resistance exercise. Be strong!


Strength training for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: A systematic review. Arthritis Care & Research. October 2008. Lange AK et al.

Patient Guidelines for Weight-resistance Training in Osteoarthritis. UpToDate. Kenneth C. Kalunian, MD. May 31, 2008.

Training Clients With Arthritis. Johndavid Maes, M.S. and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. Accessed 10/13/2008.

Related Video
Simple Exercise Warm Up
Develop Exercise Habits With Your Children
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Osteoarthritis
  4. Diet / Exercise
  5. Resistance Exercise for Osteoarthritis - Resistance Exercise

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.