Daily Walking Kept Arthritic Knees Working

Osteoarthritis patients who walked at least 3000 steps each day had lower disability risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Walking each day may keep disability away. That seems to be the message of a recent study on people with, or at risk of, osteoarthritis of the knee.

This study showed that walking at least 3,000 steps a day was a good start at keeping functional problems from developing. Such functional problems might including difficulty getting out of a chair or maneuvering stairs.

The researchers suggested that walking 6,000 steps a day may better prevent these functional problems in people with knee osteoarthritis.

"Walk a little more each day."

This research was led by Daniel White, PT, ScD, a physiotherapist from Sargent College at Boston University in Massachusetts.

The study included people enrolled in the Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study (MOST). The participants were 50 to 79 years of age and lived in Alabama or Iowa. All had osteoarthritis or were at risk for osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is often referred to as the "wear and tear" form of arthritis because it occurs when the cartilage between bones wears down over time.

Those most at risk for osteoarthritis are women, people 50 years of age or older, people who have had a previous knee surgery or injury, and people who weigh more than the average for their age and size.

Dr. White and team enrolled 1,788 people in their study and followed them for at least two years. The participants wore a Stepwatch Activity Monitor on their ankle to count steps taken. These participants wore the activity monitor for at least three days a week and up to seven days a week for a minimum of 10 hours a day. People were asked to walk at a normal or slow pace, not exercising, for a gait speed of less than 1 meter per second, which is less than 2.2 miles per hour.

The participants also had X-rays taken of their knees at the beginning of the study. Their knee pain was assessed periodically.

The researchers found that the more people walked, the better their knees functioned.

They noted that each additional 1,000 steps a day that a person walked above what they walked when they started the study was associated with a 16 to 18 percent reduction in functional limitations.

Walking 3,000 steps each day was just enough to keep disability away, the researchers learned. Few people who met this benchmark had any functional disability.

However, the study authors suggested that the ideal amount to avoid functional limitation might be 6,000 steps each day on a regular basis.

In a press release, Dr. White said, "Walking is an inexpensive activity and despite the common popular goal of walking 10,000 steps per day, our study finds only 6,000 steps are necessary to realize benefits. We encourage those with or at risk of knee [osteoarthritis] to walk at least 3,000 or more steps each day, and ultimately progress to 6,000 steps daily to minimize the risk of developing difficulty with mobility.”

James Crowell, head trainer at Integrated Fitness in Pittsburgh, PA, told dailyRx News that he is a firm believer that an active lifestyle is essential to being as healthy as possible.

"I have worked with a great number of people who have seen tremendous health benefit from adding walking to their daily routine," Crowell said. "It is crucial to continue to allow your body to do what it's designed to do... move. I cannot think of one case where a client of mine has added walking where they didn't feel better over the long run."

This study was published in Arthritis Care and Research on June 12.

This material is based upon work supported by the US Department of Agriculture, though the findings do not necessarily reflect the department's views.

Review Date: 
June 11, 2014
Last Updated:
June 13, 2014