Regular exercise, good posture, and healthy body weight can help prevent or reduce the risk of osteoarthritis (OA). Slowing down the progression of the condition may also be possible.

Osteoarthritis may not be completely preventable.

However, limiting exposure to injuries and looking after overall health can reduce the risk of developing OA.

Read on to learn more about how to prevent OA or slow down the progression of the condition.

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Getting enough regular physical activity or exercise may help protect the joints and manage body weight, both of which are important risk factors for OA.

A 2021 review found that exercise training may help to:

  • reduce the risk of cartilage breakdown
  • reduce joint inflammation
  • prevent bone loss

According to a 2022 review, exercise affected how different OA-linked genes in rats activated, which led to reduced cartilage breakdown. The same review also suggested that aerobic exercise training reduced cell death and protected bone density in rats.

Low-impact exercise may help reduce the risk of OA. Examples include:

Balance training may also prevent falls and reduce the impact of injuries on the joints.

However, it is important to warm up for at least 5 minutes to protect the joints during exercise and avoid injury.

Learn more about physical activity and OA.

A slumped or slouched posture can increase a person’s risk of OA, especially if they stay in the same position for too long.

People who engage in desk work should keep their chairs at an appropriate height. Chairs should support the lower back and allow a person to bend their knees at 90º while placing their feet flat on the floor

A computer screen should be at eye level, and an ergonomic desk can also help to enforce the correct posture. An adjustable standing desk also allows people to switch positions as often as is comfortable.

Sleeping posture

Posture while sleeping is also important. This can include:

  • keeping the neck in a neutral position
  • aligning the curves of the back
  • sleeping on a side that is not painful

Learn about arthritis at night.

According to a 2022 review, obesity is the most important risk factor for OA development, and not only in relation to overloading the weight-bearing joints.

The Arthritis Foundation suggests that being 10 pounds (lb) overweight may add an extra 15 to 50 lbs of pressure to the knees. Extra fat can also speed up cartilage breakdown through inflammation.

Tips for reaching and maintaining a moderate weight include:

  • increasing the intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts
  • setting reasonable goals
  • aiming for at least 150 minutes of exercise or physical activity per week

Learn more about OA and obesity.

Looking after joint health can help prevent excessive wear, tear, and injury. This may reduce a person’s risk of OA.

Tips for looking after the joints include:

  • avoiding high-heeled shoes
  • regularly switching between sitting and standing
  • taking stretching breaks every 30 minutes at a job that involves lots of sitting down
  • quitting smoking, as tobacco has links to reduced bone mass
  • taking care when lifting heavy objects, being sure to hold them close to the body, and using the palms of both hands to spread the load
  • sliding rather than lifting heavy objects where possible

The diet can have a significant impact on joint health.

Green vegetables may reduce age-related bone loss and slow the breakdown of cartilage. Examples include:

Calcium-rich foods may help to slow OA progression due to links to tissue repair. These include:

People can try supplementing vitamins that support joint health, including:

It is best for a person to contact a doctor for advice before taking supplements or making any significant dietary changes.

Learn more about diets for OA.

View our OA overview article for more information about the condition. Here are some frequently asked questions.

What causes osteoarthritis?

OA occurs when people lose some of the cartilage in their joints, usually due to aging. Joint injury, family history, and obesity are important risk factors. Other conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and gout, can also increase the risk.

What slows down osteoarthritis?

Exercise, weight management, and joint protection measures not only help to reduce the risk of OA but can also slow the progression of the condition if it develops. Diet, sleep, stress management, and controlling factors around smoking and alcohol consumption can also help.

Can exercise slow down osteoarthritis?

Around 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days a week can help keep joints flexible and strengthen their supporting muscles, slowing OA progression.

There is no way to completely prevent osteoarthritis (OA). However, various tips can help reduce the risk of OA.

Tips for reducing the risk of OA include low-impact, moderate-intensity exercise, dietary changes, correct posture, and maintaining a moderate weight. These can reduce pressure on the joints and prevent cartilage loss.

Avoiding or quitting smoking, practicing good posture, and moving around frequently may also help.