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What are the Best Knee Strengthening Exercises for Osteoarthritis?

Individuals with osteoarthritis experience immense pain and discomfort that prevents them from doing proper exercise. However, research suggests that people with osteoarthritis can still benefit from regular and controlled exercise. This blog will talk about the symptoms of osteoarthritis, its various causes, and the types of activities effective for managing this condition.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, commonly termed OA, is the most common form of arthritis that affects the knees, hips, and hands. This degenerative condition causes bones to break down and slowly change. As a result, people who suffer from OA experience chronic pain and joint stiffness. Some patients even go through depressive episodes and poor sleep quality due to this condition.

What are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

Common symptoms of OA include pain and stiffness in the joints, making it almost impossible to move the affected joints. In effect, patients with osteoarthritis fail to perform daily tasks like walking, standing up from a sitting position, and roaming around the house or neighborhood. Joints may also appear larger than usual. You may also notice a crackling sensation in the affected area whenever you move.

What are the Causes of Osteoarthritis?


Elderly people are more likely to have osteoarthritis than adolescents and middle-aged individuals. In fact, OA is one of the most common causes of disability among seniors.


Joint injuries from contact sports and accidents increase the risk of a person getting osteoarthritis. Hence, it’s important to attend follow-up care checks to minimize the likelihood of OA due to injuries.


Some individuals inherit an increased risk of developing OA. However, the pattern of inheritance is still unknown. Nevertheless, people who have parents or grandparents with osteoarthritis should take extra precautions when it comes to their joint health as they are more predisposed to getting the condition.


Poor lifestyle choices can also cause osteoarthritis. For instance, obesity puts unnecessary pressure on knee joints, contributing to soft tissue damage. A sedentary lifestyle can also weaken the joints, cartilages, and muscles, increasing the likelihood of getting OA.

How is Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?

Should you notice symptoms of osteoarthritis, it’s vital that you undergo a proper medical examination. Specialists will check for joint swelling, tenderness, redness, and the flexibility of the affected area.

You may also need to undergo radiographs and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to verify the findings. Most of the time, blood tests and joint fluid analysis can also confirm the diagnosis and rule out unrelated conditions.

What are Sample Exercises for Arthritic Knees?

Below is a list of easy-to-do exercises for flexibility and managing arthritic knees:

Hamstring stretch

First, remember to warm up with a 5-minute walk. After that, lie down on a flat surface and use a bed sheet or any long fabric around your right foot. Use it to pull one leg up and hold it for up to 20 seconds. Slowly lower the leg to avoid further injuries. Repeat the steps twice while alternating each leg.

Calf stretch

Prepare a stable chair before starting the exercise. Hold onto the chair for support, bend your right leg, then step back using your left leg. After that, straighten the leg behind you and press the left heel toward the floor. Hold this position for up to 20 seconds and repeat these steps while also alternating each leg.

Seated hip march

Sit with a straight back, then alternate lifting your legs up and down as if you’re marching up and down the stairs. Aim for ten repetitions on each leg while also doing 30-second rest periods between exercises for better results.

Straight leg raise

One of the most common knee strengthening exercises for osteoarthritis is the straight leg raise. Lie down on a flat surface with your arms at the sides. Make sure to keep your left leg straight before slowly lifting it several inches. After that, push your stomach muscles down, hold for five seconds, then lower the leg. Repeat the steps above before raising your right leg.

Half squat

Slowly bend your legs and push your butt back while making sure not to execute a full sitting position. It’s advisable to aim for a 45-degree angle squat. Extend both arms in front of you for balance while maintaining a steady form for up to two seconds. Lastly, use your heels to rise to your starting position slowly.

Water walking

Water exercises for arthritic knees are also common activities for managing the condition. Water walking is one of the easier exercises to do for beginners. Stand in a pool with chest-high water, then walk up to 20 steps forward. After that, walk backward, executing the same number of steps. Adjust your speed accordingly.

Forward lunge

Stand in a pool with waist- or chest-high water, then do an oversized lunge step forward. Make sure not to let your forward knee overtake your toes so you can avoid further injuries. Return to your starting position before making the forward lunge with your other leg.

Jump jacks

Water jump jacks are one of the more challenging exercises for strengthening one’s knees. First, stand in a pool with waist- or chest-high water. Keep your feet together and place your hands at your side. Jump and raise both hands above water level. After that, return to the starting position and repeat whenever you’re comfortable.

Frog jumps

Strengthening exercises for knee osteoarthritis, like frog jumps, are also recommended for managing other musculoskeletal conditions. First, stand in a pool with chest-high water, then pull knees up towards the armpits. Reach down to touch your feet while executing the frog jump. After that, return to the starting position and repeat whenever you’re comfortable.

What are the Benefits of Strengthening Exercises?

Increases range of motion

Dynamic stretching exercise increases your range of motion since it warms up the muscles and surrounding structures. As a result, executing even light exercise can improve knee function.

Reduces pain and discomfort

Aside from painkillers and other medications, exercise can also reduce pain and discomfort by initiating the release of endorphins. Through exercise, your bones and muscles become stronger and more stable.

Promotes healthy cartilage

With proper and regular exercise, your cartilage will release synovial fluid that provides lubrication and nutrients to the joints.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that affects the knees, hands, and hips. Fortunately, several exercises can help reduce pain and increase the range of motion and function of your limbs. Check out LifeClinic’s blog for more information about musculoskeletal conditions, symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

Dr. Reza Alizadeh

Dr. Reza is the visionary behind LifeClinic. His leadership is the foundation for the patient and team member experience, and overall direction of the LifeClinic. As the creator of IMJT, Dr. Reza continues to be the primary teacher on this technique.

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