Fit To Move with Arthritis: The Ultimate Guide to the GLA:D Program

Fit To Move with Arthritis: The Ultimate Guide to the GLA:D Program

It’s estimated that 250 million people worldwide have osteoarthritis.

That's a lot of people!

And that means there are lots of people out there looking for treatment for osteoarthritis. 

Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis that can affect many joints, but is most often seen in hips and knees. People with osteoarthritis can experience pain, swelling and stiffness which can impact function and quality of life. For some, the symptoms keep them from doing the recreational activities and sports they love. It may hold them back from playing with grandkids at the park, going on a hike, or even being able to walk up and down stairs. 

The impact that osteoarthritis has on people is significant. 

Exercise is a first line treatment for osteoarthritis, and for good reason! It is effective and can impact not only the symptoms that someone is experiencing, but exercise can improve function which leads to greater quality of life. 

But exercise and osteoarthritis have a bit of a complicated relationship, because often people with osteoarthritis get pain with certain exercises or movements, which can lead some people to avoid exercise completely. 

Avoiding exercise will not only worsen osteoarthritis symptoms, it will have all sorts of other negative health impacts too! 

So what’s a person to do? Exercise can be painful, but it is also part of the solution. 

Over a decade ago researchers in Denmark looked at tackling this predicament  - how could we bridge the gap between treatment guidelines, and practice, and help people with osteoarthritis effectively incorporate exercise? 

What resulted was the development of the GLA:D program for hip & knee osteoarthritis. A program that has had so much success it has grown internationally and continues to help people all over the world live a good life with osteoarthritis. 

In this post we’ll be providing an in depth rundown of the GLA:D program, and how it can benefit you if you’re experiencing hip pain or knee pain from osteoarthritis! 

What is GLA:D and Why Does it Matter?

GLA:D stands for Good Life with osteoArthritis in Denmark. It is a personalized exercise program in a group setting, led by GLA:D trained instructors. 

Personalized group exercise? That’s right! You’re in a group, but the instructors provide you with variations of each exercise that best suit you, and progress you according to your needs. So you could have 6 people in a class all doing different exercises. 

The exercises that are included in the GLA:D program have been vetted through research. They have been shown to help decrease pain and increase function. 

The program is a brilliant way to help more people feel better, and function better in their day to day life. It makes treatment more accessible to people, and with so many people suffering from osteoarthritis, the more available and accessible treatment is the better!  

Hip osteoarthritis and knee osteoarthritis are also leading causes of disability. In some cases surgery is needed, and it may be unavoidable, but if we can delay it and improve function with conservative measures such as exercise, that’s a win, and may even improve surgical outcomes! 


The History of GLA:D

The GLA:D program was developed in 2013 by two researchers in Denmark - Professor Ewa Ross and Professor Soren Skou, who were looking to bridge the gap between treatment guidelines and clinical practice. 

Within 6 years of starting the program, there were more than 1000 GLA:D trained clinicians offering the program in 400 clinics across Denmark who treated a grand total of 45 000 patients. Data was collected at baseline (before starting the program), once the program was completed and at 1 year. Results showed that participants experienced pain relief, improved walking speed, reduced use of medication, and a reduction in the number of sick days. 

Those are pretty impressive changes - especially from a 7 week program! 

GLA:D was such a success in Denmark that it has grown internationally, making its way to Canada in 2015, and to our clinic in 2022 when Physiotherapists David Tait and Natalie Lehto became GLA:D certified. 

The program combines education and individualized group exercise  facilitated by Registered Physiotherapists who are certified through GLA:D Canada to offer the program. 

How Does The GLA:D Program work?

The first step in the program is an assessment with a GLA:D trained Physiotherapist - at our clinic, that means you’ll be seeing Natalie or Dave. They will make sure you’re eligible for the program and take baseline measurements. 

From there, if you’re eligible for the program,  you’ll participate in a 7 week session that consists of two classes per week. 

The first week of the program is education - learning about osteoarthritis, treatment options and self management strategies. 

Weeks 2-7 you’ll be exercising! 

Each session, you will be guided by our GLA:D trained Physiotherapists who will make sure you’re doing the exercises properly, that you have the appropriate amount of challenge, and they’ll progress you as needed! 

At the end of the program the measurements taken at your baseline assessment are repeated to see  how you have progressed. You have the option to share your data with GLA:D international to keep feeding the research and refinement of the program.

Components of the program: 

  • Assessment for eligibility & baseline measures 
  • 1 week - 2 x education sessions, 1 hr each 
  • 6 weeks - 2x exercise sessions/week, 1 hr each 
  • Outcome measures taken at the end of the program completion, and an opportunity to share your results with the GLA:D database to help further research

The Pros and Cons of GLA:D


What are the benefits of GLA:D?

  • Reduced knee pain and hip pain 
  • Can help decrease use of medication 
  • Can help delay and avoid surgery 
  • Improved function - such as walking faster, more ease with stairs, more ease getting in and out of chairs
  • Improved quality of life
  • Connecting with other people living with osteoarthritis
  • Opportunity to contribute to research and continued refinement & improvement of the program

What are The Cons of GLA:D? 

The biggest draw back to the program is that not everyone with hip and knee osteoarthritis is eligible. In these cases, our physiotherapists have other treatment options available for people experiencing pain and limitation from hip and knee or other types of osteoarthritis. 

Meet Our GLA:D Instructors

 GLA:D trained physiotherapist David Tait   GLA:D trained physiotherapist Natalie Lehto  

Learn More About GLA:D 

GLA:D Canada

GLA:D international


If you’ve been diagnosed with hip osteoarthritis or knee osteoarthritis, pharmaceuticals and surgery are not your only treatment options! Exercise should be included in all treatment programs for osteoarthritis.

The GLA:D program for hip & knee osteoarthritis is an effective cost efficient treatment option for people with pain and limitation from hip & knee OA. 

Don’t let knee and hip pain prevent you from doing the things you love. Take action, and improve your quality of life!

Our next session of the GLA:D program starts September 13 2023. Classes are Wednesdays & Fridays at 1 p.m. 

Call us today to book your assessment 905-333-3488! 

Still have questions? Book in a FREE 15 minute consultation with Natalie or David HERE


 How is GLA:D different from doing my own exercise program at home? 

We are big supporters of movement and exercise, and we believe there’s lots people can do on their own. Where GLA:D shines,is that the exercises included in the program as well as the structure of the program  have been shown to reduce hip pain and knee pain, improve function and improve quality of life. You’ll have our instructors there supporting you every step of the way, and making sure you’re doing the exercises properly. It’s not just about what exercise you do but how you do it. Our instructors will help you get the most “bang for your buck” out of each exercise. Many people struggle with accountability,  and group programs are a great way to stay on track, receive social support, and connect with others going through similar struggles. We see this program as a win win win!  

Is GLA:D covered by OHIP?

The program at Fit for Life Physiotherapy is not covered by OHIP, but it may be covered by your extended health benefits. Contact your provider to find out if you are covered. 

How much does GLAD cost?

  • Pre-program Assessment: $130.00
  • 7 week session (2 classes per week): $490