Walking as a form of exercise has enormous benefits, particularly for older adults. It's easy on the joints and helps boost heart health and improve circulation and balance. And new research now suggests that taking a walk can reduce and prevent knee pain related to osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.
What is osteoarthritis, and who's at risk?
Some people call it "wear and tear" arthritis, and it's common in the hands, hips, and knees. It's caused by cartilage damage, which happens when the connective tissue that protects your joints and bones ruptures.
Certain elite athletes are at higher risk because of joint injury and overuse. Women are also more likely to develop the condition, especially after 50. Extra weight is also a culprit as it puts more pressure on the joints.
While there's no cure, there are therapies to treat the symptoms.
What the study found
In a study published in the Arthritis and Rheumatology Journal, experts concluded that walking could help people with knee osteoarthritis. It confirmed what many experts believe: Walking for exercise can help reduce pain and disability related to arthritis.
The study looked at 1,000 people ages 50 or older with knee osteoarthritis. Some had constant pain at the beginning, while others did not. After four years, those who didn't walk were 40% more likely to experience frequent pain. They were also more likely to develop regular bouts of stiffness or aches around the knees.
Why does it matter, and where do I start?
Walking for exercise is low impact and easy on the joints. It's free and has no side effects. It has long been associated with improved heart health and mobility. If you think you may be at risk of knee osteoarthritis, follow these recommendations:
Get moving. Experts recommend that adults exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. Every minute of activity counts, and any activity is better than none. Moderate, low-impact activities are things like walking, swimming, or biking. Regular physical activity is also associated with a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Join a physical activity program. Exercise can reduce pain and improve mood for people with arthritis. If you aren't sure what exercise routine or level is proper for you, some programs can help. Consider attending a physical activity program to learn how to become and stay active. These classes are available at local parks and community centers.
Talk to your doctor. You should always plan regular check-ups with your doctor if you have arthritis. That's especially important if you also have diabetes or heart disease. As always, follow your doctor's recommended treatment plan. If you're not active, talk to your doctor about the steps you should take to reach a healthy weight.
Protect your joints. Joint injuries can cause or worsen arthritis. Choose activities like walking, bicycling, or swimming, which are easy on the joints. These low-impact activities have a low risk of injury and do not twist or put too much stress on the joints.
Don't put off dealing with joint pain. Please schedule a consultation with your primary care provider or one of our St. Luke's Health orthopedic experts. Check with your insurance provider or primary care doctor to confirm if you need a referral.
Osteoarthritis (OA) | Arthritis | CDC
Association Between Walking for Exercise and Symptomatic and Structural Progression in Individuals with Knee Osteoarthritis: Data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative Cohort - Lo - -
12 Benefits of Walking | Arthritis Foundation