Exercise Is Medicine for Osteoarthritis

Written by Kate Thompson, Physiotherapist 


Many diagnoses and conditions are prescribed medication to help manage it. Diabetes is treated with insulin or high cholesterol with some variety of statin medication. For OA, one of the best-known treatment options is exercise, when dosed correctly and specific to you.

How Exercise Can Help Manage Your Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Ongoing research suggests that exercise can promote change both directly, at the joint, and indirectly, by improving your overall function and movement quality [1]. Osteoarthritis commonly involves the breakdown of the joint, inflammation, and decreased cell metabolism or turnover.

elderly man lifting weights

Studies show that exercise may have a protective effect on the joint by stimulating a process called ‘autophagy’, which recycles old and/or damaged cells into newer, healthier ones! [1] This is an amazing process that the body goes through that essentially goes out with the old, and in with the new.

Exercise can promote positive change indirectly as well, by improving stability and function by increasing muscle strength and helping you move in a way that distributes the load of your body more efficiently. One of the most well-known research programs studying the effect of exercise on individuals living with hip and knee osteoarthritis is called Good Life with osteoArthritis in Denmark (GLA:D). 

This consists of 2 weeks of education and 6 weeks of neuromuscular training led by a physiotherapist. In one GLA:D study with nearly 10,000 participants, pain intensity and quality of life improved significantly following the completion of the program! Furthermore, participants who completed the program reported they took fewer painkillers and took fewer sick days [2].

Introducing Peak Arthritis: A Physiotherapy Program for Osteoarthritis

The Peak Osteoarthritis Intervention Program is an 8-week exercise program that is based on GLA:D research and combines education and neuromuscular training to help individuals living with OA manage their symptoms and continue to participate in the activities they enjoy.

Participants will be assessed by a physiotherapist and be provided with a plan specific to them, and be guided through an 8-week exercise program at 2x 1-hr sessions/week. Sessions are structured as circuit training, where participants learn the fundamentals of strength training in a way that is of special benefit to Osteoarthritic joints. 

You start by learning the fundamentals of how to hinge, squat and lunge and then we progressively load these movements, based on your ability levels. You will have 1:1 sessions with a physiotherapist throughout your program, and have access to group exercise facilities to perform your exercises.

What Are the Goals of the Program?

The ultimate goal of the program is to help you be able to do more of the things you love in life. We want to help you feel fulfilled and happy. Whether that is being able to feel like you can go up and down the stairs without clinging on to a railing, being able to walk 3 blocks instead of 1, getting back into an exercise routine, playing tennis, getting back into golf, whatever your WHY is! Let our Peak Health physio know what your goals are at the beginning of the program and you can set realistic expectations together for what you hope to achieve from the program.

senior man working out


Short-term goals for how to help you achieve your longer-term goal are as follows:

  • Get stronger
  • Move smarter
  • Gain confidence (In the way you move, in your ability to complete daily tasks, in your knowledge about what OA is and how it affects your body)

How Do I Know if I Would Be a Good Fit for the Program?

There is no specific age requirement for participation in this program! We welcome beginner to experienced exercisers and most levels of OA patients (mild OA to severe OA). Regardless of your experience with exercise, we will adapt the program to your unique ability level. 

You may not be a good fit for the program if you are unable to stand or walk independently without a higher-level gait aid such as a walker. If you would like more information to know if you would be a good fit for the program, please call the clinic at 403-287-7325 and you can request that the lead physiotherapist for the program call you with more information.

We can’t WAIT to see how exercise rehabilitation can help you move better!

Book a discovery call with our physiotherapist Kate today HERE.

At Peak Health And Performance, we offer a wide range of treatment options including massage therapy and concussion care to address a variety of conditions and help improve your quality of life. Some of the common conditions we can help with include:

  • Poor posture
  • Connective tissue issues
  • Knee injuries and Knee pain
  • Joint pain relief
  • Impaired range of motion


  1. Kong H, Wang XQ, Zhang XA. Exercise for Osteoarthritis: A Literature Review of Pathology and Mechanism. Front Aging Neurosci. 2022 May 3;14:854026. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2022.854026. PMID: 35592699; PMCID: PMC9110817.
  2. Skou ST, Roos EM. Good Life with osteoArthritis in Denmark (GLA:D™): evidence-based education and supervised neuromuscular exercise delivered by certified physiotherapists nationwide. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2017 Feb 7;18(1):72. doi: 10.1186/s12891-017-1439-y. PMID: 28173795; PMCID: PMC5297181.

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