How to Exercise With Arthritis of the Hips

Updated July 19, 2017

Having arthritis of the hips can be a very physically-limiting situation. However, exercising in the face of arthritis is critical for overall good health as well as to keep those arthritic hips moving to reduce stiffness. In this article you will come to understand a bit about arthritis as well as learn some examples of safe exercises that can be performed, even with advancing arthritis.

Get the right diagnosis. There are many reason that people can have hip pain, from arthritis, to aneurysms of major blood vessels. So, if you have pain in one, or both, hips, make sure that you get a proper diagnosis of your condition before embarking on any exercise program. What someone describes as “hip” pain may not be in the hip at all. Two classic examples of pain that is commonly described as hip pain is sciatica (an inflammation of nerves in the lumbar spine) and trochanteric bursitis (an inflamed bursa on the outside hump of the lateral hip). Neither of these types of pain actually involves the hip joint.

Understand the condition and develop the right exercise routine. Arthritis of the hip joint(s) can be a very debilitating condition, and can have a potentially significant impact on activity. Arthritis is a condition in which the joint surfaces of both the ball of the hip (femoral head) and the socket (acetabulum) become worn down and the surrounding lining becomes chronically inflamed. The more the surfaces wear down, the more exposed bone rubs together, causing pain. Formulating a plan of exercise and activity can be intimidating in light of the level of activity restriction arthritis can inflict at various levels of severity. Weight bearing by merely walking can be painful. It is, however, necessary to keep arthritic joint moving and mobile to reduce stiffness.

Minimise gravity. Exercises that can take place in the absence of gravity, or at least in reduced amounts, will be considerably helpful in that they can maximise motion without the bed effects of rubbing caused by gravity. Exercises that would fall into the gravity-reduced or, gravity-eliminated categories would include swimming, biking, water aerobics and water-based arthritis classes. These exercises are all designed to mobilise the joints, while at the same time reducing the harmful effects of weight bearing caused by gravity exerted on the body. Exercises such as leg lifts in the lying down position can help reduce stress on the hips and back as well.

Listen to your body. Exercises should be conducted within tolerance levels for both activity as well as pain. Do not exercise to the point of fatigue or severe discomfort. Remember, these exercises are meant to be for the long haul, so pace yourself accordingly. Exercising to the point of pain will only aggravate symptoms and cause more pain in the hips.


Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.

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About the Author

Ken Chisholm is a freelance writer who began writing in 2007 for LIVESTRONG.COM. He has experience in health care, surgery, nursing and orthopedics as an orthopedic physician assistant and a registered nurse. He holds a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Findlay, Ohio.