Managing Osteoarthritis With Diet and Exercise

You may be looking for non-drug treatment options to help manage your osteoarthritis. Diet and exercise are among the possible approaches you could consider as you try to gain control of your osteoarthritis symptoms.

While neither diet nor exercise has been offered up as a cure, optimizing these two strategies can be beneficial. An appropriate exercise program is part of the multidisciplinary management of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis usually causes problems with gait, range of motion, strength, and flexibility—and even with endurance. Working on improving these issues can reduce the impact of the disease.

The role of diet in osteoarthritis is less clear. As part of a multidisciplinary approach, a diet focusing on good nutrition and weight management is realistic. As an independent factor, the gains of a diet rich in antioxidants and vitamin D have been the focus of current research.

Educating yourself about the role of diet and exercise in consultation with your doctor is a positive approach. A nutritionist, personal trainer, or physical therapist can also help craft an individualized program for you that could maximize your benefit.

Senior man and woman in a pool holding each other
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Diet and Osteoarthritis

Information about the effect of diet on osteoarthritis is often contradictory or confusing.

But experts agree that being overweight is bad for your joints. You might already wish there was a quick fix for shedding unwanted pounds. There's not. If you are overweight, eating right and eating less can help you reach your target weight.

A diet rich in antioxidants is generally recommended, and the effects of antioxidants on osteoarthritis are being examined in research studies. Antioxidants are a component of many types of healthy foods, and they are available as supplements too.

Exercise and Osteoarthritis

Regular exercise is recommended for better health, especially for middle-aged and older adults.

Consider some of the following ways of exercising:

  • Walking: Walking is an important way to stay active, maintain your aerobic fitness, and keep your joints moving.
  • Water exerciseWater exercise, also described as pool therapy or hydrotherapy, is usually done in a therapeutic pool that's heated to a temperature between 92 to 98 degrees. Water exercise includes aerobic activities, stretching, strengthening, and range of motion drills.
  • PilatesPilates is a type of exercise that is usually not too intense for people who have osteoarthritis. Pilates helps build a strong core, which helps soothe osteoarthritis pain. If pilates isn't quite for you, you can also try chair yoga, which has some similar techniques.
  • Bicycling: Low-impact exercise can be great for people with osteoarthritis, and bicycling is particularly good because it keeps your knees moving through their full range of motion while strengthening supporting muscles.
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Article Sources
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  1. Paździor M, Kiełczykowska M, Kurzepa J, Luchowska-Kocot D, Kocot J, Musik I. The Oxidative Stress in Knee Osteoarthritis Patients. An Attempt of Evaluation of Possible Compensatory Effects Occurring in the Disease Development. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019 May 16;55(5):150. doi: 10.3390/medicina55050150. PMID: 31100974; PMCID: PMC6572222

Additional Reading
  • Nonpharmacologic therapy of osteoarthritis. UpToDate. Kenneth C Kalunian, MD.