8 Smart Exercises for Knee Arthritis

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Healthgrades Editorial Staff on June 20, 2021

Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve the pain and stiffness of knee arthritis. It strengthens the muscles around the knees, and it improves your flexibility, range of motion, and balance. Your doctor or a physical therapist can help you determine the best exercises for you.

The following muscle-strengthening and stretching exercises, from the Arthritis Foundation and the National Institute on Aging, are a great place to start.

  • Man stretching hamstrings
    Exercise #1: Hamstring Stretch
    Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend one knee, placing the bottom of the foot against the inside of the other leg. Let the bent knee drop toward the floor. Bend forward from the hips and reach toward the ankle of your outstretched leg. Go only as far as is comfortable. Keep your chest straight; don't round your upper back or neck. Hold the stretch and relax into it. Then stretch the other leg.
  • woman performing quadriceps stretch with back foot bent toward buttocks
    Exercise #2: Quadriceps Stretch
    While standing, place your right hand on the wall or the back of a chair for support. Bend your left leg behind you, and grab it just above the ankle with your left hand. Pull the ankle backward toward your buttocks. Tighten your tummy and tuck your buttocks in. Hold the stretch for a moment, then release and stretch the other leg.
  • exhausted-female-runner-bending-over-on-road
    Exercise #3: Forward Bend
    Stand with your feet a few inches apart and knees slightly bent. Bend forward from the waist and reach for your toes. Go only as far as is comfortable. Let your arms hang loosely. Hold the stretch for five slow breaths, then slowly come back up. Try to feel yourself unrolling one vertebra at a time until you're standing straight again.
  • African American woman and friends exercising and doing squats on basketball court
    Exercise #4: Chair Squat
    Stand with your feet facing forward, about shoulder-width apart. Raise your arms over your head. Squat as if you were going to sit down. At the same time, move your arms halfway down. Make sure your feet are facing forward, knees over ankles. Hold the position for several seconds. This exercise can also be done with your arms by your sides.
  • gettyimages 611085316
    Exercise #5: Calf Raise
    Place your hands on a chair or table for support. Stand on your right leg and wrap your left foot around your right ankle. Rise up and down on the ball of your right foot several times. Keep your abdomen and buttocks tight as you do this. Then switch legs.
  • weight-machine-leg-lift
    Exercise #6: Quadriceps Lift
    Sit up straight in a chair, both feet on the floor, and tighten your abdomen. Extend one leg in front of you, with your toes pointing upward. Raise your thigh off the chair slightly. Lower your thigh and repeat. Then switch and repeat with the other leg.
  • Side leg raise
    Exercise #7: Side Leg Raise
    Stand with your hands on the back of a chair with your feet slightly apart. Slowly raise your right leg to the side. Make sure your left knee is slightly bent and your back is straight. Keep right leg raised for one second. Lower the leg, then repeat 10 to 15 times. Now switch legs and do 10 to 15 side raises with your left leg. Next, switch back to your right leg and do 10 to 15 raises. Finish by doing another 10 to 15 raises with your left leg.
  • Knee curl
    Exercise #8: Knee Curl
    Stand and hold onto the back of a chair. Lift your right leg straight out behind you, without pointing your toes. Bring your heel toward your buttocks as far as you can by bending your knee. Don't move your hips, and keep the leg you're standing on slightly bent. Hold for one second, then lower to the floor. Repeat the movement 10 to 15 times. Switch legs and do 10 to 15 curls with the left leg. Then perform another 10 to 15 curls with your right leg. Finish by doing 10 to 15 curls with your left leg.
8 Smart Exercises for Knee Arthritis


ArthritisLiving withTreatment
Was this helpful?
Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 20
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.