Bone. Strong. Health.

Exercise and Weight Loss: How It Helps Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a condition characterised by progressive deterioration of the joint functionality. Patients with osteoarthritis usually present with joint pain, stiffness, swelling, instability in walking or even joint deformity. The risk of developing this is higher for individuals who are overweight or obese, as concluded in a meta-analysis.(1) With regards to that, lifestyle modification in the form of increased physical activity and weight reduction can play a great role in delaying the onset of the condition.

First and foremost, patients with osteoarthritis are encouraged to exercise. However, the frequency, intensity, duration and rate of progression of that should be individualised. A gradual increase in intensity and duration of exercise is key. For a start, you may try some simple stretching exercises (as Figure 1) recommended by the Ministry of Health, Malaysia.(2) Study shows aerobic training and walking can effectively reduce pain and improve physical function in patients with knee osteoarthritis. (3) Meanwhile, a Cochrane systematic review suggests that aquatic exercise could prove more effective than land-based exercises in relieving pain and improving the quality of life of people with osteoarthritis. (4)

Given that obesity is an important modifiable risk factor for osteoarthritis, weight reduction should therefore be a priority for those suffering from it. It comes with clear benefits such as reduced pain and improved mobility. (5) The case for it is further strengthened by the result of a randomised controlled trial, which claims that a unit of weight loss could fetch a 4-fold reduction in knee load in overweight patients. (6)

Do consult your healthcare professional if you need advice on exercise routine and weight reduction.


  1. Blagojevic M, Jink, C, Jeffery A, et al. Risk factors for onset of osteoarthritis of the knee in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2010 Jan;18(1):24-33.
  2. Ministry of Health, Malaysia. Clinical Practice Guideline. Management of Osteoarthritis. 2nd 2013.
  3. Fransen M, McConnell S Exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 4 Art No: CD004376.
  4. Bartels EM, Lund H, Hagen KB, et al Aquatic exercise for the treatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4 Art No: CD005523.
  5. Bliddal H, Leeds AR, Stigsgaard L, et al. Weight loss as treatment for knee osteoarthritis symptoms in obese patients: 1-year results from a randomised controlled trial. Ann Rheum Dis. 2011 Oct;70(10):1798-803.
  6. Messier SP, Gutekunst DJ, Davis C, et al. Weight loss reduces knee-joint loads in overweight and obese older adults with knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2005 Jul;52(7):2026-32.

osteoarthritis, Joint Pain, joint stiffness, joint swelling, walking difficulty, joint deformity, overweight, obese, lifestyle modification, physical activity, weight reduction, exercise frequency, exercise intensity, exercise duration, aerobic exercise, walking, aquatic exercise, relieve pain, reduced pain, improved mobility, quality of life

About The Author
Mai Chun Wai
Dr Mai Chun Wai graduated with First Class Honours and Dean’s List from the International Medical University (IMU) Bachelor of Pharmacy in 2009. He was the recipient of Sanofi-Aventis Award and Kotra Pharma Award for excellence in research in the graduating class. Dr Mai then graduated with PhD in Medical and Health Sciences (Medicinal Chemistry) from IMU under the joint supervision from IMU, University of Strathclyde (United Kingdom, UK) in 2014. In 2012, he was awarded the IMU Young Alumnus Award 2012 for his noteworthy contributions to community and society with significant personal and professional achievement.

Currently he is appointed as Lecturer in School of Pharmacy, IMU. His research team published numerous peer reviewed papers related to drug discovery and rationale drug use. His team is clearly on a trajectory to developing a national and international reputation, as exemplified by being the only Malaysian selected in the Southeast Asia-European Union-NET II (SEA-EU-NET II) Fellowship 2016, his selection as the first awardee of the Research Mobility Grant 2016 to work as a Visiting Researcher at the Institute of Protein Biochemistry, National Research Council, Naples, Italy, his appointment as a Research Fellow of the Sultan Mizan Antarctic Research Foundation 2015, to work in Cambridge (United Kingdom) and his award of a travel scholarship funded by the Royal Society United Kingdom to participate in a workshop at UK in 2015.

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