Knee OA, Keep on Walkin'
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 07:37 AM

Patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA) can decrease their likelihood of developing functional limitations by walking more, a study of older adults suggested.  Each additional 1,000 steps per day was associated with a 16% lower risk for later functional deterioration when assessed on an objective performance-based measure, and with an 18% decrease in risk on a self-report measure.

The OA Research Society International recommends exercise as a suitable nonpharmacologic treatment for patients with OA; however, a recent survey of U.S. primary care physicians found that fewer than one-third advise their OA patients to exercise.  But exercise is only one form of physical activity, physical activity can include energy output in ordinary, unstructured activities -- such as walking.

To examine the effects of walking on future functional disability, this study analyzed data from a subset of patients in the Multicenter Osteoarthritis (MOST) study who had been given an accelerometer-based activity monitor to wear for 7 consecutive days.

An initial goal of 3,000 steps per day might be a suitable minimum at the outset, because few individuals with that level of physical activity were functioning poorly at 2 years, according to the researchers.  That could then be increased to 6,000 steps per day.  

"Rather than promoting potentially difficult-to-achieve walking activity goals that could further discourage people with knee OA, our study results suggest that lower targets may still provide therapeutic benefits."  

"These steps-per-day thresholds merit further evaluation as improving daily walking may be an inexpensive means of minimizing functional limitations in knee OA," they concluded.