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Knee Exercises

Arthritis Knee Exercises

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Posted 2 years ago


Last updated: 20/11/2023


by James McCormack

James McCormack
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Knee Exercises For Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition of the joints. When osteoarthritis affects the knees it is commonly associated with weakness in some muscle groups such as the quadriceps and gluteal muscles. Gold standard treatment for mild and moderate arthritis is strengthening exercises for these muscle groups.

Below we will describe a few knee arthritis exercises that are commonly prescribed for strengthening the knees and reducing pain. Like with all strengthening exercises it takes time to see the effects, usually at least 6 weeks. Don’t expect an overnight miracle, but with patience and perseverance you will see significant effects. It is always best to see a physical therapist to direct you with the best specific exercises for knee arthritis for you and your needs.

Knee Extension

Sit on the edge of a seat or table, with a resistance band tied around one ankle and a sturdy table or chair leg. Slowly straighten your knee against the resistance band, hold your leg in the straight position for 3-5 seconds then slowly return down. You should feel your quadricep muscles working.

Repeat 8-12 times, have a minute or two rest, then repeat for 3 sets. 

Wall Sit 

Lean against a wall with your back and pelvis and step your feet out so that as you slide down into a squat position your ankles are under your knees. Keep your weight on the heels of your feet and hold this position for as long as you can, aiming for 60seconds. You should feel your quadriceps and gluteal muscles working. 

Have a minute or two rest, then repeat for 3 sets. 

Hip Abduction

Lie on your side with your injured leg upper most. Tip your pelvis forwards so that your buttocks is angled towards the ceiling. Keeping a straight knee, lift your top leg so that your ankle is level with your pelvis. Without moving your back or pelvis, move your leg up and backwards, then return to hip height. You should feel your gluteal muscles working.

Repeat 8-12 times, have a minute or two rest then repeat for 3 sets.


Lie on your back with your knees bend and feet on the floor, have your knees at about 90º bend. Tilt your pelvis backwards, flattening your back against the floor, and lift your pelvis off the floor, your tail bone leading the way. You should feel your gluteal and hamstring muscles working. 

Repeat 8-12 times, have a minute or two rest then repeat for 3 sets. 

Calf Raise 

Stand on the edge of a step, on the balls of your feet. Lower your heels down as far as they can go, while keeping straight knees. Then lift your heels as high as you can, still keeping straight knees. You should feel your calf muscles working. 

Repeat 8-12 times, have a minute or two rest then repeat for 3 sets. 

Exercising With Knee Arthritis

It is important to stay active and strong if you have arthritis in your knees. Exercises with knee arthritis is a safe and effective way to maintain strong and flexible joints, and can help with pain and function. There are several good ways to exercise with knee arthritis, including cycling, swimming, cross trainer or ski erg.

Photo of cyclist with iliotibial band syndrome

Photo of front crawl swimmer

Knee Arthritis Exercises To Avoid

If you have arthritis in the knee, there are some exercises to avoid. These exercises can aggravate symptoms. High impact exercise such as running and jumping and quick direction changes can put stress on the knee joint, worsen pain and increase swelling. Your physical therapist or doctor will advise you to avoid these completely or reduce these exercise types. 

It is not always necessary to stop these activities completely or forever. However, if your symptoms are high in terms of pain and swelling you will benefit from complete avoidance. You might then be able to reintroduce some of these exercises, possibly with some modifications or additional support. For example you might love running, and you might need to compromise by reducing how much running you do or how far you run. In addition by wearing very cushioned and supportive trainers you may find less aggravation. You can read our related article on Best Running Shoes for Knee Arthritis. 

Similarly with other sports you can find ways to reduce the impact on your knees. For tennis, you may chose to play doubles, so you don’t have to run as far, or move as fast. Or you might wear a knee brace for jumping sports such as basketball. 

Physiotherapy with James McCormack

This article is written by James McCormack, a Lower Limb Specialist who is an expert in treating Knee Arthritis.

This is not medical advice. We recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack if you are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in this article. James offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments weekly and face-to-face appointments in his London clinic.

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