Research and new developments

The relationship between sport, exercise and osteoarthritis

Maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle can reduce the future risk of osteoarthritis developing and progressing, particularly in the lower limb joints. Certain types of exercise have also been shown to reduce the risk of injury and help people recover from injury.

Some sports can present a small risk of injury, which can increase the future risk of osteoarthritis. That’s why our Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Versus Arthritis is looking to better understand how exercise can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis. This work is crucial to support public health advice and clinical practice to reduce the impact of arthritis.

Research includes exploring if there’s a connection between running and risk of osteoarthritis. The team are evaluating individuals who participate regularly in recreational running over time, to study the development of knee osteoarthritis.

Exercise programmes

Walk With Ease is a community-based walking programme, developed in the United States, specifically designed for people with arthritis. The programme has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of arthritis and improving mobility.

Our research is exploring how Walk With Ease could be implemented in the UK, and is looking at planning a trial to evaluate the benefits of the programme on physical activity and health of people with arthritis.

Researchers at the University of Oxford are also developing a programme tailored for people over 80, with hip or knee osteoarthritis. The programme will reflect the challenges people in this age group face with exercise and will aim to deliver a programme suitable for every person’s ability.

Sleep, exercise and pain

Getting good quality sleep and being able to do regular physical activity are valuable goals and we know they can also have a positive impact on pain. Research we fund at the University of Aberdeen is exploring the link between sleep, exercise and pain in those living with long-term pain. The research holds the potential to develop better resources and support, to improve sleep and levels of activity, and hopefully reduce pain.


Evidence shows exercise can reduce pain and improve function of the knee. But, exercise programmes needed to help relieve knee pain are usually delivered by physiotherapy services, which are overstretched. This means patients often encounter long waits and short sessions.

Making the most of technology may help resolve this issue. E-rehabilitation programmes may be a useful and effective way to deliver exercise programmes to patients in their own homes.

Research at the University of Leeds is exploring if exercise programmes delivered via the internet are a useful way to support people with knee pain. This would mean that people with arthritis have easier access to support and feel more encouraged in their recovery, ultimately reducing long-term knee pain.