Exercise when knees and hips hurt

Published: February, 2014

Even routine tasks can feel daunting when your knees or hips hurt. There are some simple and effective things you can do to relieve knee and hip pain. Basically, you want to:

  • reduce inflammation
  • relieve pain
  • avoid further joint damage
  • reduce the load on knees and hips by maintaining a healthy weight
  • strengthen the muscles that support the joints

Exercise is one of the best ways to work toward all these goals.

Exercising without stressing your knees and hips

The following activities are gentle on knees and hips. You can combine these exercises to create a routine lasting 30 minutes or longer:

  • Floor exercises (abdominal curls, crunches, push-ups, or leg lifts)
  • Resistance training with hand weights
  • Gentle yoga
  • Swimming
  • Exercise ball routines, including stretches, abdominal curls, or leg lifts

Water exercise offers particular benefits because:

  • The water supports your weight, reducing stress on your joints.
  • You can try out exercises before doing them on solid ground.
  • An 85° F pool is comfortable for exercise and soothes joints.
  • You can increase range of motion and endurance without strenuous effort or joint pain.

For more on ways to keep knees and hips pain-free, with a special bonus section on knee and hip replacement, buy Knees and Hips: A troubleshooting guide to knee and hip pain, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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