What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease caused when cartilage breaks down. This allows the bones to rub together, which can result in bone spurs, stiffness, and pain.

If you have osteoarthritis of the hip, pain may prevent you from exercising. A lack of exercise may even contribute to osteoarthritis and muscle atrophy. Regular physical activity can help strengthen muscles, improve balance, and make your hip joints more stable.

In addition to regular exercise, you can increase your movements while performing regular daily activities. Adding a moderate amount of activity each day can improve your overall health and well-being.

Factors such as your overall health and your age will help determine which exercises are best for you. Before beginning a new exercise routine, be sure to discuss it with your doctor, or ask them to recommend a physical therapist.

When beginning an exercise program, it’s best to start slowly. Some examples of low-impact, non-strenuous exercise include:


If you have balance problems, using a treadmill (with no incline) allows you to hold on. Walking at a comfortable pace — whether it’s indoors or outdoors — is an excellent low-impact exercise.

Stationary bike

Using a stationary bike on an easy setting allows you to slowly build your strength. Using the bike in your home allows you to avoid traffic and stop when you feel strained.

Water exercises

Freestyle swimming provides a moderate workout. Walking in water up to your waist lightens the load on your joints while also providing enough resistance for your muscles to become stronger. This can greatly improve pain and daily function of the hips.


Regular yoga can help improve flexibility of the joints, strengthen muscles, and lessen pain. Some yoga positions can add strain to your hips, so if you feel discomfort, ask your instructor for modifications. A class for beginners is a good place to start.

Tai chi

The slow, fluid movements of tai chi may relieve arthritis pain and improve balance. Tai chi is a natural and healthy stress reducer as well.

Strong muscles can take pressure off your hip joints and help improve balance. You should not engage in strength training more than twice per week. Examples of muscle strengthening exercises include:

Chair stand

Set a chair against the wall and sit towards the front of the chair with your feet flat on the floor. Recline back with arms crossed and hands on your shoulders.

With your head, neck, and back straight, bring your upper body forward and slowly rise to a standing position. Slowly return to your original seated position.

Repeat this up to six times, slowly building your strength up to 12 repetitions.


Lie down on your back on the floor. With your knees bent and your feet on the floor, place your palms down near your hips. With a straight back, lift your buttocks up as high as possible. Use your hands for balance. Then lower yourself back to the floor.

Do four to six repetitions.

Hip extension

Using the back of a chair to balance yourself while standing, bend forward slightly and lift your right leg straight behind you as your tighten your buttocks. Lift the leg as high as possible without bending your knee or arching your back.

After holding the position briefly, lower the leg slowly. Repeat with your left leg and try to complete this four to six times on each side.

Gentle flexibility exercises, or range-of-motion exercises, help with mobility and reducing stiffness.

Inner leg stretch

Sit with knees bent and the soles of your feet touching. Holding your shins or ankles, bend your upper body forward slightly. Gently press your knees down with your elbows. Hold for about 20 to 30 seconds.

Hip and lower back stretch

Lie down on your back with legs outstretched. With your neck on the floor, turn your chin toward your chest. Bend your knees and hold them with your hands. Pull your knees toward your shoulders as far as you can. Take a deep breath and bring your knees higher as you exhale.

Double hip rotation

Lie down on your back, with knees bent and feet flat toward the floor. With your shoulders on the floor, slowly lower your knees to one side while turning your head to the other. Bring knees back and repeat on the opposite side.

Performing balance exercises three days a week can decrease your chances of falling and help you to feel more secure. Examples of exercises that help with balance include:

  • tai chi
  • standing on one foot
  • slowly walking backwards
  • simple balance exercises using Wii Fit

Aerobic exercise, also called cardio or endurance exercise, is activity that makes your heart beat faster. It’s good for your heart and can help keep you physically fit overall, but be careful not to overly stress your hip joints.

Check with your doctor before beginning a new aerobic exercise routine. Depending on what you can physically handle, examples of low-impact aerobic exercises include:

  • speed walking
  • vigorous swimming
  • stationary bike
  • aerobic dance
  • Listen to your body and adjust your activities as necessary.
  • Stick with gentle exercises that can strengthen the muscles around your hips.
  • If you feel increased pain, stop and rest. If joint pain continues hours after you’ve stopped, you are over exerting your hip.
  • Increase your activity level throughout the day by walking whenever possible.
  • Use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications for your hip pain.
  • Make sure you get a good night’s sleep.
  • Manage your weight: extra pounds can be a burden on your hip.
  • Check with your doctor if you think it may be necessary to use a cane.
  • Join a health club or exercise class to help you stay focused and active.

Ask your doctor to recommend a physical therapist who understands osteoarthritis of the hip. Physical therapists can target treatment specifically for your condition and offer suggestions about your daily routine.