Top exercises to strengthen joints and prevent injuries at work

Our joints naturally wear and tear as we age. If you have a physically demanding job — like a tradesperson or emergency services worker — this process is often sped up. That can result in pain and reduced mobility, and put you at greater risk of injuring yourself at work.

Luckily, there are some exercises you can do to improve your joint health.

General tips for joint health exercises

When tackling any of these exercises, warm up beforehand and stretch afterwards. This can help ensure you don’t overexert or injure your muscles. You should also use your discretion before trying these exercises, particularly if you have an existing injury or condition that might affect your ability to do them. If in doubt, you may want to consult a health professional for advice.

As well as these general exercises, low impact cardio, like swimming and cycling, can improve your joint strength.

It’s up to you how often you fit these exercises into your routine, but doing around 5-10 reps of each several times a week is a good place to start. Just make sure you give your body a day or two in between to recover.

Exercises to strengthen your knees and ankles


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You can do squats using just your bodyweight, or, to add intensity, holding a dumbbell or medicine ball. To do a squat:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips, with your feet pointing forward.
  2. Choose a spot ahead of you to look at, and keep your focus on this throughout the exercise.
  3. Gently lower your hips backwards towards the ground, keeping your back as straight as possible, core engaged, and feet and knees pointing straight ahead.
  4. You can hold your arms parallel out in front of you, or bring your hands together — whichever is more comfortable for you.


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Lunges can be done just using your bodyweight, or you can hold dumbbells during the exercise to up the ante. To perform a forward lunge:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Extend one leg forward into a lunge position, lowering your back knee towards the ground.
  3. Ensure your forward knee doesn’t extend over your toes, and try to keep your back straight throughout.

Wall sits

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Try this exercise for about 30 seconds to start off with, and increase the time as you get more confident. You can also add something heavy to your lap, like a medicine ball, as you build your strength.

To do a wall sit:

  1. Find a sturdy wall that can support your weight.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, a little less than a metre from the wall.
  3. Slide your back down the wall, until you’re in a seated position with your thighs parallel to the ground.

Exercises to strengthen your hips

Glute bridges

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Glute bridges can be a great way to stretch out and strengthen your hip joints. As you get more confident, you can switch it up with single leg glute bridges or place a weight (such as a dumbbell) over your lower abdomen as you do the exercise. To complete a glute bridge:

  1. Lie on your back, with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground, and hands by your side.
  2. Slowly lift your hips off the ground, until your shoulders, hips and knees all form a straight line.
  3. Gently lower yourself back to the ground to start the exercise again.

Lateral walk (using a resistance band)

For this exercise, you’ll need a resistance band, also known as a stretch band or exercise band. To do a lateral walk, simply:

  1. Position your resistance band just above your knees, with your feet in line with your hips.
  2. Squat down a little, knees slightly bent and back straight.
  3. Take small steps to the side, moving one leg at a time and leading with your foot closest to the direction you’re travelling in.
  4. After 8-10 steps, move back in the opposite direction.

Donkey kicks

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You’ll need to find a comfortable spot on the ground or lay down a yoga mat before doing this one. To complete a donkey kick:

  1. Get down on your hands and knees, with your hands flat on the ground in line with your shoulders, and your knees in line with your hips.
  2. Slowly bring one leg up and back, with your knee still bent, so that your thigh ends up parallel to the ground.
  3. Repeat for both legs.

Exercises to strengthen your shoulders

Push ups

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While you’re building your confidence and strength, you can make push ups more manageable by keeping your knees on the ground. To complete a push up:

  1. Get down on your hands and feet, with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.
  2. Straighten your arms.
  3. Bending with your elbows, lower your chest as close to the ground as possible, then push yourself back up.


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Like the wall sit exercise, you can start out doing 30 second planks and slowly build your strength up. To do a plank:

  1. Get down on the ground in a push up position. Instead of keeping your arms straight, bend at the elbows so that your forearms run along the floor.
  2. Position your elbows under your shoulders, and spread your feet about hip width apart.
  3. Make sure to engage your core to keep your back as straight as possible, without slouching towards the ground.

Side and front lateral raises

You’ll need to use some sort of weight for this exercise. It can be dumbells, or something you have in the house like a full water bottle or bag of flour. To do a lateral raise:

  1. Stand against a wall, making sure the back of your head, shoulders and buttocks all touch the wall.
  2. For the side lateral raises, slowly lift your chosen weights out to the side, keeping your arms straight, up to shoulder height.
  3. For the front lateral raises, slowly lift your chosen weights out directly in front of you, again keeping your arms straight and reaching shoulder height.

What happens if you’re injured at work?

All businesses that hire employees on a full time, part time, or casual basis, under a contract of service or apprenticeship, must have Workers Compensation Insurance. This covers wages if an employee can’t work due to a work-related injury or illness, as well as relevant medical expenses, treatment and rehabilitation costs.

If you’re unsure about how you’re covered at work, it could be worth asking your employer. Depending on your workplace, that might mean your HR department, safety officer or direct supervisor.

GIO offers Workers Compensation Insurance for businesses in WA, NT, ACT and Tasmania. Complimentary training courses are available for GIO customers to help businesses prevent workplace injuries.

Customers also have access to a wide range of discounted training courses provided through our partnership with National Safety Council of Australia (NSCA). For more information on the training courses or if you have any risk management queries, please contact us.

Find out more about GIO Workers Compensation

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Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as GIO. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance.

This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.