Your Health

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Osteoarthritis

Lifestyle changes may help slow the progression of osteoarthritis. Changes can also help you maintain your normal level of functioning.

Managing Osteoarthritis


Maintaining an appropriate weight can help:

  • Improve your symptoms that result from osteoarthritis
  • Slow the progression of osteoarthritis
  • Reduce osteoarthritic injury to other joints

The heavier you are, the more stress you put on your joints. Consult your doctor before radically changing your diet, however. You may benefit from talking with a registered dietitian. A dietitian will help you achieve an optimal weight while maintaining a healthful, nutritious, varied diet.


Exercise can strengthen your muscles, which can help keep your joints more stable, and the stronger muscles help to absorb energy and protect the joint surface. For example, if you have arthritis in your knee, exercise, including strength training, can help improve knee function. Participating in a water exercise program is also a good option.

Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. You will need to customize your exercise program to protect the joints that are affected by osteoarthritis. You may be advised to consult an exercise physiologist or physical therapist to help you design a safe exercise plan.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Always contact your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms do not improve with the recommended changes
  • Your symptoms worsen
  • You develop any new symptoms

Revision Information

  • Fransen M, McConnell S. Exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;CD004376.

  • Osteoarthritis. Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: Accessed July 23, 2013.

  • Osteoarthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: Updated July 2010. Accessed July 23, 2013.

  • Sinusas, K. Osteoarthritis: Diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2012;85(1):49-56.

  • 2/26/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Cadmus L, Patrick MB, et al. Community-based aquatic exercise and quality of life in persons with osteoarthritis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010;42(1):8-15.

  • 2/15/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance McAlindon T, LaValley M, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on progression of knee pain and cartilage volume loss in patients with symptomatic osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2013;309(2):155-62.