Can 6,000 steps a day keep knee pain away?
Walking 6,000 steps a day may help improve knee osteoarthritis (OA) and prevent disability, new research suggests.
Nearly 27 million Americans aged 25 and older have been diagnosed with OA, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The resulting joint pain and stiffness limits movement for 80 percent of sufferers, with 11 percent needing personal care assistance.
“Our study examines if more walking equates with better functioning,” said lead author Daniel White, in a news release. “And if so, how much daily walking is needed to minimize risk of developing problems with mobility in people with knee OA.”
Researchers tracked the number of steps taken over a week by nearly 2,000 adults who were at risk for knee OA or already had it. All used pedometers and were part of the Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study.
Two years later, the researchers assessed the participants for any arthritis-related functional limitations. They found that 70 percent of those who averaged 6,000 or more steps per day reported no decrease in function. On the other hand, 70 percent of those who walked less than 6,000 steps experienced limitations.
“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,” White said.
While walking is a common daily physical activity for many older adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions reports that two-thirds of U.S. adults with arthritis walk less than 90 minutes each week (outside of routine activities).
For someone with knee OA who is just starting to exercise, White recommended setting 3,000 steps as a first goal. And make sure to stretch before and after the walk, adds Dr. Joseph Meis, an orthopedic surgeon with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.,
“When you were younger, you may have been able to walk or go for a run, and then move on to the next activity without any problems,” Dr. Meis said. “But as you age, you need to focus more on stretching. The older you get, the more stretching your body needs.”
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