Knee Osteoarthritis: Motion is Lotion

The benefits of exercise for knee osteoarthritis has been extensively researched and validated. Exercise including resistance and aerobic training reduces pain, improves quality of life and can delay or prevent the need for surgery. Despite these facts, the majority of the 2.2 million Australians living with knee osteoarthritis do not participate in any form exercise.


Exercise is safe and comes without the risks of other common treatments including Panadol, anti-inflammatories and surgery. Importantly, exercise is beneficial and feasible for all people with knee osteoarthritis, regardless of severity. In support of this, a recent research article reported that two thirds of patients awaiting knee replacement surgery delayed their surgery by at least 2 years after completing a tailored 12 week exercise program.


Exercise benefits are more than just reduced pain in patients with osteoarthritis


The benefits of exercise for knee osteoarthritis are not limited to reducing pain and improving function.  Two out of every three Australians with knee osteoarthritis are also managing comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression.  Exercise is seen as the best treatment for these conditions too. In fact, exercise is reported to effectively manage at least 25 and prevent 35 chronic diseases due to its natural anti-inflammatory effect. 


Osteoarthritis Education


Exercise is not the easy option, with many patients instead seeking alternate therapies including injections and surgery. One of the biggest barriers to exercise participation is pain and the perception that this may be associated with further damage to an osteoarthritic knee.  However exercise is essential for good joint health and avoiding exercise will actually accelerate the osteoarthritis disease process.


Program Recommendations


It is recommended that patients with knee osteoarthritis complete an exercise program tailored and targeted to their individual needs for a minimum of 12 supervised exercise sessions.  Each session should be of 60 minute duration and completed 1-2 x a week for a total of 12 weeks. In addition to this recommendation knee osteoarthritis patients are encouraged to perform the program up to 3-4 sessions per week to optimize outcomes including strength.   


During the early stages of a tailored exercise program, increases in pain are normal and will decrease in frequency and intensity over time.  A physiotherapist will take a sensible approach to exercise with increases in pain kept to a low level ensuring that they settle back to pre-exercise levels within 24 hours. 


In conclusion, a 6 week exercise program is essential for the management of knee osteoarthritis with benefits including a reduction in pain, delay in surgery as well as improvement in function and quality of life. So what are you waiting for, book an appointment with one of the qualified physiotherapists at Wilson Physiotherapy Group to get your tailored exercise program and move to towards a better future.





Skou, S., Pederson, B., Abbott, J., Patterson, B., & Barton, C. (2018). Physical Activity and Exercise Therapy Benefit More Than Just Symptoms and Impairments in People With Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 48(6), 439-447.

Dan Elton