A comprehensive review of the effectiveness of different exercise programs for patients with osteoarthritis

Phys Sportsmed. 2012 Nov;40(4):52-65. doi: 10.3810/psm.2012.11.1988.


Exercise is recommended as a first-line conservative intervention approach for osteoarthritis (OA). A wide range of exercise programs are available and scientific evidence is necessary for choosing the optimal strategy of treatment for each patient. The purpose of this review is to discuss the effectiveness of different types of exercise programs for OA based on trials, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses in the literature. Publications from January 1997 to July 2012 were searched in 4 electronic databases using the terms osteoarthritis, exercise, exercise program, effectiveness, and treatment outcome. Strong evidence supports that aerobic and strengthening exercise programs, both land- and water-based, are beneficial for improving pain and physical function in adults with mild-to-moderate knee and hip OA. Areas that require further research include examination of the long-term effects of exercise programs for OA, balance training for OA, exercise programs for severe OA, the effect of exercise programs on progression of OA, the effectiveness of exercise for joint sites other than the knee or hip, and the effectiveness of exercise for OA by such factors as age, sex, and obesity. Efforts to improve adherence to evidence-based exercise programs for OA and to promote the dissemination and implementation of these programs are crucial.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis, Hip / rehabilitation*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / rehabilitation*
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Resistance Training / methods*