Do you know someone who is suffering from osteoarthritis? There's no doubt about it, osteoarthritis hurts. It can stop you from doing activities you used to do with ease. The bad news is there isn't currently a cure for osteoarthritis, and It will get progressively worse over time. The good news is you can slow down its damaging affects, and make your joints feel better. The key? Exercise.

Why Osteoarthritis Hurts

Osteoarthritis occurs in joints. Joints are where two bony structures come together (like the ball and socket joint in the hip). Cartilage acts as a sort of cushion in-between the two bony structures. Sometimes the cartilage between the two bones gets damaged, degenerates, or is surgically removed. When this happens a portion of, or all of, the cushioning between the bones just isn't there anymore. Wherever cartilage is torn or missing, you get bone on bone. Without this cushioning, every time the joint moves, it scrapes, bangs, and grinds the bones exposed to each other. Over time this begins to deform one or both of the bones in a joint - now you have arthritis in the joint.

Bone on bone hurts, and deformed bones lead to sloppy moving joints, which causes instability. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint in the body. When the affected joints are the knee, hip, or shoulder, it almost always eventually leads to a joint replacement.

To add insult to injury the body creates osteophytes. This is your BODY'S attempt to re-grow the bone that has ground away. Unfortunately your body grows this new bone as little bony spurs. They stick out the end of the bone like little thorns, and scrape and gouge your joint every time you move. Youch! No wonder osteoarthritis hurts so much.

How Exercise Helps

Exercise can significantly decrease pain, and improve the stability and mobility in an affected joint. Both aerobic exercise and strength training help.

How Aerobic Exercise Helps

Regular aerobic exercise helps decrease pain, and increase joint mobility. Often people with osteoarthritic joints are overweight. The more weight you have crashing down on a sloppy fitting, bone to bone joint with spurs, the more pain you have. Aerobic exercises help to release fat. The less fat on the body, the less weight is bearing down on affected joints, and therefore, less pain. That's why fat release is crucial for people with osteoarthritis.

Next, regular aerobic exercise erodes those nasty bone spurs. During aerobic exercise, like riding a bike, you bones are in continuous motion. This motion creates a sandpaper effect that will keep smoothing these nasty little spurs off, thus decreasing joint pain.

These two benefits combined improve overall mobility. Let's face it, the less pain you have, the more likely you are going to be active and engage in exercise. Improved joint mobility naturally follows, and your quality of life goes up.

Good and Bad Aerobic Exercises for Osteoarthritic Joints

Rotary movements are usually most comfortable. This includes activities like: cycling, and elliptical training. Pool activities are also good because in water your joints don't have to bear weight. Walking is okay if you can tolerate it. Doing aerobic exercise for 30 minutes or more daily, is a good goal.
Aerobic exercises that cause the most pain tend to be linear movements, or high impact movements. These includes activities like, jogging, hiking, stepping, jumping, racquet sports, volleyball, and basketball.

How Strength Training Helps

Strength training improves stability in osteoarthritic joints. The stronger the surrounding muscles are, the more stable your joint will be. Strength training can be performed with your own body weight, resistance tubing, or weights. Strength train three times per week for best results.

The bottom line is that once a joint is osteoarthritic, it won't heal. It will only get worse. Exercising regularly will decrease your pain, and increase your mobility. Exercise will substantially improve the quality of your life. As Nike says "Just Do It"

Note: If you are considering beginning a strength training program I strongly recommend that you hire a professional trainer. Someone experienced, and certified to work with osteoarthritis. Not all trainers are certified this way, and working with the wrong person can cause damage rather than good. Please visit my website and get your free report “12 Questions to Ask a Trainer Before You Hire Them” This will help you choose a qualified trainer in your area.

Author's Bio: 

Astrid Whiting is a fitness and health expert. She is a Certified Medical Exercise Specialist, Nationally Certified Personal Trainer, and international Health and Fitness Speaker. She's been a professional fitness trainer for over 8 years, and has thousands of hours experience working with clients. She's the author of the Healthy Habit Former 90-day program, producer of the hypnosis/visualization CD Acheive Your Vibrant Healthy Body, and has written a multitude of "how to" health and fitness articles. You can get all her articles for free by signing up at