6000 Steps To Reduce Osteoarthritic Knee Risks

Over time, knee osteoarthritis can limit your mobility. We know that exercise is beneficial, but now researchers have discovered exactly how many daily steps you need to take to reduce your risk of functional limitation.

Knee osteoarthritis is a progressive disease that can erode mobility and affect the quality of day-to-day life. Over time, as knees become stiffer and more painful, people affected can find it increasingly difficult to get out of bed, rise from a chair, climb stairs, or even walk.

We know that an active life and regular exercise are beneficial for people with osteoarthritis—and that walking is a particularly effective way to mitigate the functional loss associated with arthritic knees. Walking does wonderful things for osteoarthritic knees, including the following:

  • Reduction in joint pain.
  • Increases joint flexibility.
  • Strengthens the muscles around the joint to help support them.
  • Improves blood flow in and around the knee.
  • Helps nutrients to circulate into the knee cartilage.
  • Psychologically, walking builds confidence that exercise goals are doable.

Of course, walking only helps if you make time to do it. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that two-thirds of U.S. adults with arthritis incorporated less than 90 minutes of walking into their weekly exercise routine. This prompted researchers to wonder about the steps, or “unstructured walking,” that we take in the course of our daily activities. People with painful knees might not be walking an hour a day or clocking in 10,000 daily steps on their Fitbit, but are they taking enough steps during their daily activities to offset the risk of functional limitation caused by joint disease?

The researchers evaluated the walking habits of almost 1,800 people who had knee osteoarthritis or were at high risk for it, but had yet to experience any functional limitation. After two years, they found that the more people walked, the less likely they were to lose functionality. The “magic number” of daily steps required to maintain functionality was 6,000—and people who took even more steps experienced additional benefits.

If you are inspired to protect your knees, but have not been active, we encourage you to make a change—but don’t jump in with a sudden change in your activity level. It’s important to increase your number of daily steps incrementally to protect your overall health and avoid injury. Use a pedometer or activity monitor, and try first to log 3,000 steps per day. Then, gradually work up to a 6,000 step goal. If that feels comfortable, you can add even more steps per day.

Wearing a pedometer may be much easier than sticking to an exercise routine over time, and will protect the lifestyle you love. All you have to do is walk.

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