One of the most common causes of musculoskeletal pain and knee disability is osteoarthritis (OA). The condition, which occurs when cartilage between the joints wears away, results in joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and decreased mobility. A new study published online in “Arthritis Care & Research” reports that walking 6,000 steps a day can reduce the risk of functional limitations in people with knee osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis can lead to different kinds of mobility issues such as trouble getting out of a chair or bed, climbing stairs, or walking down the street, which significantly impacts their day-to-day life. Exercise can prove highly beneficial for people with OA. Walking helps to decrease joint pain, increase flexibility and strengthen the muscles around the joints. It also improves the blood flow in and around the joints. As per reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (May 2013), two-thirds of U.S. adults with arthritis report walking (for exercise) less than 90 minutes a week.
The researchers wanted to know whether unstructured walking will help people to become physically active enough to prevent functional limitations and follow an active lifestyle. They also wanted to know ‘how much’ unstructured walking can be considered sufficient.
More than 1,800 people who suffered from knee osteoarthritis or who were at high risk of developing the condition were surveyed. At one point, they asked to wear an activity monitor for one week so that the researchers could track how much they moved.
At the start of research, the participants did not have any specific functional limitations. The researchers measured the total amount of physical activity of each participant along with how many steps they walked each day. Their key findings were as follows:
- About 4-8% had developed functional limitations and this did not include those who walked more
- The magic number of daily steps that divided the two groups was 6,000
- Those who walked more than the magic number of steps enjoyed more benefits
- Walking 5000 steps a day was also beneficial as it reduced the risk of developing functional limitations by 50% compared to walking less
- Walking provides functional as well as psychological benefits
The study emphasizes the need for people with arthritis to change their sedentary lifestyle to a more active one. A high level of physical activity improves the strength and mobility which is very important for protecting the joints and overall health. Strong muscles and tissues will support and protect the joints, including those that are weak and damaged from arthritis. Lack of exercise will make the muscles smaller and weaker, leading to brittle bones.
If you have OA, you can benefit from treatment at an established rehab center. In addition to walking and general exercise, your program would include proper diagnosis by a specialist, education about arthritis, diet and lifestyle, medication, heat and cold treatments, physical therapy, and more.