Walking is Free – And It Might Help to Prevent Knee Pain

PainRelief.com:  What are the main findings?

Response: These findings suggest in those who walk for exercise might be less likely to develop symptoms. 

However, when we looked at those who did already had regular knee pain at the beginning of the study, those who walked for exercise had the same number of people who had improvement of their knee pain.

                These findings suggest that once people have regular knee pain, those who walk for exercise did not have more resolution of symptoms than those who didn’t walk.

The idea here being that prevention is the key.  If you can catch people before they get regular symptoms and get them to walk, this might be very helpful in preventing the development of regular knee pain.  The opportunity might already be lost once regular knee pain has already occurred.

The other exciting finding is that those who walked for exercise had less damage to their joints (based on xray findings). 

This is the first intervention for osteoarthritis that looks to have benefits from both a symptom and structure perspective. 

Because osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, where 30% of people age 60 or older have knee osteoarthritis, the public health implications of these findings are potentially substantial. 

Our findings might represent a paradigm shift in the way that we should be thinking of osteoarthritis.  For decades, we have been looking for the ever elusive medication that will change the landscape of osteoarthritis.  However, our study suggests that we should be focusing instead on interventions that are biomechanically driven, like exercise based interventions such as walking.  Additionally, the time to intervene is early, before people have regular symptoms. 

The other great thing about these findings is that walking is free and you don’t need any special equipment to participate, really lowering the barriers to participating in the activity.

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: There are lots of health benefits to walking for exercise.  Now, this might also include knee health!

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: We would like to conduct a randomized controlled trial to see if encouragement to walk for exercise, in fact does what we have seen in this observational study. 


Grace H. Lo, Surabhi Vinod, Michael J. Richard, Matthew S. Harkey, Timothy E. McAlindon, Andrea M. Kriska, Bonny Rockette‐Wagner, Charles B. Eaton, Marc C. Hochberg, Rebecca D. Jackson, C. Kent Kwoh, Michael C. Nevitt, Jeffrey B. Driban. Association Between Walking for Exercise and Symptomatic and Structural Progression in Individuals with Knee Osteoarthritis: Data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative Cohort. Arthritis & Rheumatology, 2022; DOI: 10.1002/art.42241


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