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Osteoarthritis and Exercise

Published: September 23, 2020

Arthritis, it’s a word that no one likes to hear! However, arthritis is part of the normal ageing process. It’s like “wrinkles on the skin”, it is the body’s way of showing that you are getting older, the only difference is that we can’t visibly see arthritis. So, what is arthritis/osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease that affects the whole joint. It causes the cartilage on the ends of bones to degrade which in turn affects the surrounding capsule, ligaments, and muscles.

The purpose of cartilage is to:

  • Provide a smooth surface that lets bones slide easily when moving; and
  • Absorb shocks and distributes load (pressure).

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Cartilage has no blood supply; therefore, it needs nourishment from synovial fluid (fluid within the joint). Cartilage is like a sponge; pressure pushes fluid out, but when pressure is released cartilage sucks fluid back in. This occurs through weight-bearing activities such as walking, squatting, and lunging. However, as we mentioned above, OA affects the whole joint, therefore dysfunction of the knee or hip can cause pain and loss of function. This means that activities like walking, squatting, and lunging become far too difficult; and then a vicious cycle of inactivity and deconditioning follows. This is why OA is the leading cause of physical inactivity in people over 65 years of age and the most common lifestyle disease in people over 65 years of age (more common than high blood pressure and diabetes).

OA was previously thought of as a “wear and tear disease”, which led many people to think that they cannot and should not be physically active. This is no longer correct! Research has shown that cartilage needs moderate load through physical activity to regenerate itself1. How good is that?! So, where do we go from here? Cue the “GLA:D Program.”

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The GLA:D (Good Life with Arthritis: Denmark) Program is an education and exercise program developed by researchers in Denmark for people with hip or knee OA symptoms2. The program consists of 12x physiotherapy-supervised sessions and 2x educational sessions over a 6-week period. After this time, the physio will re-assess your pain and function and decide whether you continue the program for another 6 weeks (at home or in the clinic).

Research from the GLA:D program in Australia shows an average pain reduction of 36%, reduced analgesic consumption, reduction in perceived need for surgery, and clinically meaningful improvement in joint confidence3.

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If you have any questions or would like further clarification on the above information, please feel free to email/call Cameron at Back In Motion Eltham on c.ramlu@backinmotion or 9439 6776.


  1. Quicke, J. G., Foster, N. E., Thomas, M. J., & Holden, M. A. (2015). Is long-term physical activity safe for older adults with knee pain?: a systematic review. Osteoarthritis and cartilage, 23(9), 1445-1456)
  2. Roos, E. M., Grønne, D. T., Skou, S. T., Zywiel, M., McGlasson, R., Barton, C. J., ... & Davis, A. M. (2020). Outcomes following the glad program for patients with symptomatic knee and hip osteoarthritis in Denmark, Canada and Australia. A longitudinal analysis including 28,370 patients. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage28, S31-S32.
  3. Skou, S. T., & Roos, E. M. (2017). Good Life with osteoArthritis in Denmark (GLA: D™): evidence-based education and supervised neuromuscular exercise delivered by certified physiotherapists nationwide. BMC musculoskeletal disorders, 18(1), 1-13.