Training with osteoarthritis – getting started

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that breaks down the cartilage in the joints, which can cause both pain and stiffness. Many people believe that osteoarthritis is the same as the wear and tear in the joints and that therefore rest is the best thing to protect the joints. However, this is incorrect. Many of the symptoms can in fact be alleviated by means of physical activity and instructor-led training. This builds up the muscles around the affected joint at the same time as stimulating the cartilage to repair itself. Many doctors even prescribe physical activity for sufferers.

A soft start

The best treatment for osteoarthritis is training that is adapted to the individual. It is important to remember that this does not necessarily mean sweaty workouts in the gym. Performing one or two exercises in the living room at home can make a big difference. If even this is too painful, pain relieving medicine may provide additional help. However, pain relievers should not be taken in the long term and should only be taken when needed.

When a part of your body feels stiff and is painful, it is a natural instinct to keep it still and not expose it to strain which will cause more pain. It may therefore be beneficial to visit a physiotherapist or osteoarthritis classes before starting treatment. A physiotherapist can help set up a customized program with simpler exercises. The exercises can then be made more advanced over time.

Here is more information about training and treatment of osteoarthritis.

Fitness training

At the start it might be painful to move the affected joint when you are training. But this pain is harmless. Having said that, it should be bearable. It is important not to stop moving, but instead to adapt your activities and exercises to your own abilities. Fitness training exercises, for example walking, cycling and swimming, are often good options that do not expose the joints to dangerous loads.

The type of fitness training that will work depends to some extent on where the disease is located in the body. If you have osteoarthritis in your knee and want to strengthen it, the forms of fitness that are recommended are walking, cycling, swimming and using a cross trainer. This will allow you to increase your pulse and build muscle without overloading your joints, unlike running, for example. It is also important to warm up well in order to soften the muscles.

Strength training

If you suffer specifically from osteoarthritis in the knee and want to strengthen your knees, it is common to be given a program that includes strength training. Some common exercises include squats, stair climbers, pelvic lifts and hip strengthening. These can be made easier by using only your body weight and performing fewer repetitions. It is also possible to make them harder by using a rubber band, free weights or working with one leg at a time. The sufferer can talk to a physiotherapist or personal trainer to get a personalized program at the right level.

Osteoarthritis training in a group or individually

If you prefer training with others in the same situation, osteoarthritis classes are a good option. Classes are available in several locations in Sweden and offer both theory lessons with facts about the disease and group training sessions with a physiotherapist. There is still no cure for osteoarthritis, but long-term, customized training has proved to be the most effective form of treatment for both prevention and relief from symptoms.

In the lessons, sufferers will also take part in individual training programs that you can take home. These consist of simple exercises that you can do at home without equipment. This is also available through the digital osteoarthritis treatment Joint Academy. By downloading the app, the sufferer can make contact with a physiotherapist on their mobile phone. Every individual is given a personalized treatment program to do at home.


With regular physical activity, a sufferer can keep the disease and its symptoms in check. If you are not yet affected, you can prevent the symptoms from developing using the same approach. In order to get the right exercises and avoid any incorrect strain, it is recommended to contact a physiotherapist. This is easy through a local health center, osteoarthritis classes or the Joint Academy app.

Read more about recommended osteoarthritis medicine.