Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on August 02, 2021
Keep to a Healthy Weight

Keep to a Healthy Weight


Extra pounds stress your joints and can wear away the soft cartilage at the ends of your bones more easily. Drop just 10 pounds, and you could take as much as 40 pounds of force off your knees. That's a lot less wear and tear, especially over time. And extra fat on your body may release chemicals that can inflame joints, which also can lead to osteoarthritis. Talk to your doctor about the right weight range for your size. 

Control Your Blood Sugar

Control Your Blood Sugar


High glucose (blood sugar) levels, which happen with diabetes, can form molecules that stiffen and weaken your cartilage. This leads it to break down more easily under stress. Diabetes may also trigger inflammation throughout the body, which can damage cartilage. Follow your doctor's advice on how to keep your diabetes in check.

Keep Moving

Keep Moving


Exercise helps prevent osteoarthritis by keeping extra pounds off and lowering your chances of getting diabetes. Plus, movement in the joint triggers the release of synovial fluid that lubricates and nourishes the cartilage. Shoot for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

Strength Training

Strength Training


This could be pushups and pullups or weightlifting. You strengthen muscles to better support your joints and help stop or slow the breakdown of cartilage. Stronger muscles also help prevent sudden injury to a vulnerable joint, another cause of osteoarthritis. It's particularly important to build and maintain muscle around joints that bear weight like your knees, hips, and ankles. 

Eat Fatty Fish

Eat Fatty Fish


Think salmon, tuna, halibut, cod, mackerel, and herring. These types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help lessen inflammation that can be hard on your joints. Even though scientists typically think of rheumatoid arthritis as the inflammatory form of the disease, inflammation may also cause some types of osteoarthritis or make them worse.

Take Care With Repeated Motion

Take Care With Repeated Motion


Doing the same actions over and over, like swinging a tennis racket or lifting boxes, is a common cause of osteoarthritis. It slowly wears away your cartilage. If possible, take regular breaks to give your body a chance to rest and heal. Ice down painful areas right away to lessen inflammation. A physical therapist can give you strengthening and stretching exercises to help prevent damage that might lead to osteoarthritis.

Do Activities the Right Way

Do Activities the Right Way


Whether it's swinging a golf club, playing the piano, or running the 100-yard dash, there's a correct style to follow. Bad technique is a common cause of overuse injury. Even a small error in form can cause problems. Trainers, coaches, teachers, and physical therapists can help make sure you're doing things in a way that's less likely to cause injury.

Warm Up

Warm Up


Before you do something physical, whether it's an all-out game of flag football or just a quiet round of golf, it's a good idea to loosen up your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints, to make them harder to injure. Walk, run in place, or do some jumping jacks. All it takes is 5-10 minutes -- a small price to pay to avoid hurting yourself.

Ease Into New Activities

Ease Into New Activities


When you start an activity you haven't done before, give your body a chance to get used to it. Then, depending on what it is -- lifting, biking, swimming, gardening -- you can slowly add more speed, time, intensity, and difficulty. Check your response at each step of the way. This helps protect against slow or sudden injury to your cartilage.

Mix It Up

Mix It Up


It's a good way to avoid the repeated motions that so often lead to osteoarthritis. If your only exercise is a daily run, you might switch it up with some biking or swimming. You could also consider some weightlifting to add strength and stretching to stay flexible. Try yoga, which is good for strength, flexibility, and balance. The variety of types of exercise can help keep you interested and injury-free.

Choose Your Shoes Carefully

Choose Your Shoes Carefully


Women make up two-thirds of people with knee osteoarthritis. High heels, which put more stress on the front and back of the knee, are part of the problem. Even a low inch-and-a-half heel can increase the pressure. Light, low-heeled, flexible shoes seem to be the best to help prevent osteoarthritis. Take time to get used to them.

Listen to Your Body

Listen to Your Body


If a certain motion or activity causes serious joint pain, stop! Likewise, you might have overdone it if you still have pain an hour or so after you exercise. Rest and icing might help, but talk to your doctor to be sure. Joint padding and braces can also help protect against excess pressure on your joints. As always, it's important to use the right technique no matter what the activity. 

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American Academy of Family Physicians: "Osteoarthritis."

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Safe Exercise."

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine: "Overuse Injury."

Arthritis Foundation: "Can Your Shoe Choice Help -- or Hurt -- Your Arthritis?" "Can Lifestyle Factors Influence Osteoarthritis Outcomes?" "Osteoarthritis Causes," "Fish Oil," "Inflammatory Osteoarthritis: An Oxymoron," "Exercising With Osteoarthritis," "Hyaluronic Acid Injections for Osteoarthritis," Osteoarthritis Prevention: "What You Can Do," "Benefits of Weight Loss."

Cleveland Clinic: "6 Myths About Joint Pain and Arthritis," "Is There Anything I Can Do to Prevent Osteoarthritis?"

George Mason University Center for Health and Wellness: "Overuse Injury in Musicians."

Harvard Health Publishing: "Exercise: Rx for overcoming osteoarthritis," "10 tips to prevent injuries when you exercise."
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International Osteoporosis Foundation: "Preventing Osteoarthritis."

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Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center: "Role of Body Weight in Osteoarthritis."

Mayo Clinic: "Osteoarthritis," "Overuse injury: How to prevent training injuries," "How much should the average adult exercise every day?"

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National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Sports Injuries."

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans."