6000 Steps a Day Could Keep that Osteoarthritis at Bay

Man with OA going for his daily walkOsteoarthritis (OA) is a condition that affects nearly half of all Americans over the age of 40. It’s also the leading cause of chronic disability in the country, making it the primary focus of many clinical research studies. Specialists have developed a range of therapies and medications to help millions of Americans cope with the symptoms of OA, but it seems like there may be an even simpler answer.

A new clinical study suggests that walking a total of 6,000 steps per day can drastically lower your risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knees. Aside from helping to promote more active lifestyles for middle-aged adults, these results could also help the country save a lot of money on treatment expenses.

(Currently, specialists are working on a range of cost-effective treatments for people with osteoarthritis, including using 3D printed stem cells.)

A team of researchers from Sargent College at Boston University discovered that taking 6,000 steps each day actually protects people who’re at risk for or have been diagnosed with OA from developing debilitating mobility problems.

“Our study examines if more walking equates with better functioning, and if so, how much daily walking is needed to minimize risk of developing problems with mobility in people with knee OA,” explained Sargent College’s Daniel White, PT, ScD.

A Cost-Effective and Efficient Way to Protect the Knees

The team found 1788 volunteers for their study (all of them were either clinically at risk or had already developed OA in their knee). They closely monitored the number of steps these people would take each day for a week. The participants that walked at least 6,000 steps a day scored better than 28 out of 68 in the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index (WOMAC), a diagnostic tool used to evaluate OA symptoms.

In comparison, the participants that walked 1,000 steps a day experienced a 16 to 18 percent reduction in functional limitation.

The results are incredibly positive for many reasons. First off, walking doesn’t require a significant monetary commitment. Secondly, the study shows that a manageable 6,000 steps a day is all it takes to protect the knees. White and his team are encouraging those at risk for OA to start out at 3,000 steps and slowly work their way up to 6,000 steps per day.

The Damaging Effects of Osteoarthritis

The results of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey have shown that at least 80 percent of OA patients suffer from some form of joint limitation and 11 percent require personal care assistance. Walking has already been touted as one of the best self-management techniques for osteoarthritis, but studies still show that most arthritic patients walk less than 90 minutes per week.

Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage (the cushioning material in the joints) to wear away over time. Eventually, the bones of the joint start to rub and grind together as the cartilage deteriorates. This produces a broad range of debilitating symptoms, including:

  • Swelling
  • Chronic pain
  • Stiffness
  • Limited joint mobility
  • Formation of painful bone spurs

This osteoarthritis clinical study was funded by several institutions, including:

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • The Boston Rehabilitation Outcomes Center
  • The Boston Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center

The authors of the trial have concluded, “Clinicians and policy makers can consider these goals as preliminary levels of physical activity to recommend to people with or at high risk of knee OA. These steps/day thresholds merit further evaluation as improving daily walking may be an inexpensive means of minimizing functional limitations in knee OA.”



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