A new study has found that walking can ward off knee pain for people with osteoarthritis. This condition affects more than 32 million adults in the United States.

As a form of exercise, walking traditionally has been promoted as benefitting your heart. Lately, it has been linked with battling depression and cognitive impairment as well. The new study, published by Wiley Online Library, suggests that walking could also help prevent joint discomfort.

“In individuals > 50 years old with knee osteoarthritis, walking for exercise was associated with less development of frequent knee pain,” the authors wrote. “These findings support that walking for exercise should be encouraged for people with knee osteoarthritis.”

The study began in 2004, looking at more than 1,000 people over age 50 who had osteoarthritis in the knee, the most common type in the country. Participants reported how much they exercised, symptoms of their osteoarthritis, and pain levels. After four years, more than a third, or 37%, who didn’t walk for exercise experienced frequent pain; just 26% of those who walked experienced the same pain.

Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis, sometimes called “wear and tear arthritis,” is the most common form of it. It is associated with a breakdown of cartilage in the joints and can occur in almost any joint. It commonly occurs in the weight-bearing joints including the hips, knees, and spine. It also affects the fingers, thumb, neck, and large toe.

“Everyone’s always looking for some kind of drug. This highlights the importance and likelihood that interventions for osteoarthritis might be something different, including good old exercise,” Grace Hsiao-Wei Lo, MD, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the lead author on the study, said in The New York Times.

Exercise builds muscle mass and strengthens ligaments around the joints affected by osteoarthritis. The study research suggests that exercise could help manage osteoarthritis in other joints, she added, like those in the hips, hands, and feet.

And unlike joining a health club, walking is free – and something most people can do just about anywhere at any time.

Show Sources

Wiley Online Library: “Association Between Walking for Exercise and Symptomatic and of Structural Progression in Individuals with Knee Osteoarthritis: Data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative Cohort.”

Arthritis Foundation: “Osteoarthritis.”

The New York Times: “A New Study Points to a Surprisingly Simple Way to Ward Off Knee Pain.”

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