What type of exercise is best for arthritis sufferers?

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% 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!  

knee arthritis


Grade your arthritis for exercise success!


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.


Grade of arthritis and exercise conversion table


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 of Arthritis Exercise best performed
Grade 1 Walking (below 10,000 steps)Strength training that can be gradually increased with supervisionTai 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 supervisionTai Chi

Pilates and Yoga with close supervision and modified exercises

Grade 4 Start with hydrotherapy and water based exercises for 4-8 weeksAvoid weight bearing exercises such as squats and lunges Isometric strength training for affected jointsWalking 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.


This blog is part of the wellvess arthritis vitality program.