A new study shows that walking every day can help people with arthritic knees maintain their mobility. About 27 million American adults have osteoarthritis of the knee, and the pain that causes can make it hard to climb stairs or move around. About 80 percent of those with osteoarthritis have functional limitations.
In the study, almost 1,800 volunteers wore step counters for a week. Their walking speed and functional limitations were measured two years later. Those who took an additional 1,000 steps a day were at least 16 percent less likely to have serious limitations later. The investigators found that walking 6,000 steps a day was a good threshold for maintaining functional ability. Even though knee pain may make walking uncomfortable, continuing to walk can help control pain and more serious problems in the long run.
The People’s Pharmacy perspective reinforces the value of continued activity to maintain joint function. This is not controversial. The special extra information from this study is the goal of at least 6,000 steps a day. Most experts suggest aiming for 10,000 steps daily to maintain cardiovascular fitness and help with weight control, but 6,000 may be a more manageable goal for many people. A simple pedometer to count steps can be purchased for $15 or less, although fancy electronic activity trackers are available for considerably more and offer more sophisticated tracking possibilities.
For those whose knee pain is already affecting their activity, we offer non-drug approaches to easing discomfort so you can keep moving in our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis.