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Exercise is important for patients with arthritis. This article outlines 10 great exercises that can help improve knee mobility in patients with arthritis of the knee.

Arthritis is characterized by joints that are swollen, hot and painful. The two most common subtypes of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. A fairly common disease, arthritis affects almost 50 percent of adults 65 years of age or older. If arthritis is left untreated, it can worsen over time.

One of the most commonly affected joints in patients with arthritis is the knee, which is the largest joint of the body. Many people believe that are exercising is detrimental to the health of their joints. In fact, the opposite is true. There are specific exercises that are especially beneficial for patients with arthritis of the knee.

Here is a selection to get you started. 

1. Leg lifts

Leg lifts are an exercise that helps improve a person’s stability and balance, as well as leg strength. In order to conduct a leg lift, you stand against a wall, raise your leg to the side, avoid leaning to the stationary side and then lower the leg. You should repeat this 15 to 20 times a day on each side. Leg lift are especially good for your hips and glutes.

2. Sit and stand

Sit and stand is a repetitive exercise that helps improve the range of movement in your knees and leg strength. The eventual goal of this exercise is to help you stand up without feeling pain in everyday life. In order to conduct the exercise, you first sit on a chair with your feet on the floor. Then, you cross your arms over your chest and stand up slowly. Then, you return to being seated and repeat the whole exercise for one minute.  The sit and stand exercise works your quadriceps and glutes.

3. Kick-backs

Kick-backs increase the strength of your leg muscles and reduce stiffness in your knees. You start by standing up straight, then lifting your foot off the floor, bending your knee and bringing your heels towards your butt. Then, you hold that pose for a few seconds, and lower your knee. Your knees should be aligned, and your posture should be straight. Then, you repeat this 10 to 25 times.

4. The clam

The clam is an exercise that helps strengthen your butt, as well as reducing the impact on your knees (as patients with arthritis often have weak glutes). In order to do this exercise, you should start by lying on your side, bending your hips and knees, keeping your feet together, lifting your top knee as much as possible, and holding it for three to five seconds. Then, slowly bring it down. You should repeat this 10 to 25 times two times a day. You can also work your glutes by doing buttock clenches.

5. Quadriceps stretch

This exercise aims to improve the movement of the quadriceps, as well as improve range of motion for the knee. This exercise is conducted in multiple steps. First, you should lie down on your stomach. Next, you should move your right forearm to the front, then bend your left knee, grab your ankle or shin, lift the knee off the floor, hold for a few seconds and then switch sides.

6. Hamstring stretch

Hamstring stretches are a good exercise to improve your hamstrings, as well as boost the flexibility of your knee joints. In order to do a hamstring stretch, you should start by lying down with your legs stretched out. Next, bend your right knee and grab the back of your thigh. Then, pull the legs towards your chest, relax your arms so the knee points in, straighten the leg towards the sky, bend your knee again and repeat on both legs.

7. Leg cross

This type of exercise helps improve knee joint flexibility and knee strength. In fact, it improves the strength of every muscle that surrounds the knee. In order to do a leg cross, you should cross your ankles over each other when the thighs are contracted, hold it for 10 to 30 seconds, switch sides, and repeat the same exercise. Leg cross also helps improve posture.

8. Elliptical training

Elliptical training help improve the strength of your arms and legs. It is a low-impact exercise that is better than running for patients who have arthritis of the knee. It is done using a machine known as elliptical trainer, and is found in almost every gym.

9. Stationary cycling

Stationary cycling is beneficial for patients with arthritis as it is a low-impact cardiovascular exercise that helps improve the whole leg. Additionally, it is a low impact exercise compared to walking or running. It also reduces the strain that is put on knees when using traditional bicycles.

10. Swimming

Swimming is one of the best exercises for patients with arthritis as it is easy on the joints, particularly on the knees. It also targets the whole body, and is good for overall fitness. You can also choose to do other water-based activities such as water aerobics as well.


There are several great exercises that you can do in order to improve your knee health. However, it is best to consult with your physician before you embark on any exercise regimen. You can also choose to work with a fitness trainer that has experience working with patients with arthritis.

  • Ytterberg, Steven R., M. L. Mahowald, and H. E. Krug. "Exercise for arthritis." Bailliere's clinical rheumatology 8.1 (1994): 161-189.
  • Focht, Brian C., et al. "Exercise, self‐efficacy, and mobility performance in overweight and obese older adults with knee osteoarthritis." Arthritis Care & Research 53.5 (2005): 659-665.
  • Schilke, Joyce M., et al. "Effects of muscle-strength training on the functional status of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee joint." Nursing research 45.2 (1996): 68-72.
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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