We know that regular exercise, no matter how small, can to keep alive longer. But new studies on Monday show that even walking time per week can help older people with sick knees to avoid painful isolation injuries down the road.
Researchers look at data from an earlier project that teaches thousands of middle-aged and elderly Americans with knee osteoarthritis, an osteoarthritis initiative that started in 2004. At the start of the project, volunteers conducted a full medical review and answered questions about their habits of life, after which their health was monitored periodically up to 8 years
For the present study, the researchers examined about 1,500 adults who had knee pain but had no other disabilities at first, then followed them for four years.
By the end of these four years, they found that only 3% of the people who reported having received one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise (the equivalent of at least a lively walk that leaves your breath a little heavier) have become so disabled that they could no longer cross the street themselves, while 24% of those who did not meet the exercise threshold were excluded by the end of the study period – a eightfold difference in risk. Practitioners were also half as likely to have problems with daily activities, such as putting clothes or taking a shower alone (12% vs. 23%).
The results are published Monday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine
. Exercise is already known to help prevent conditions such as knee osteoarthritis, the most common form of knee arthritis. It can also improve symptoms, reduce pain and slow the progression of the disease in people who already have degenerative joint disease. But Dunlop and her team were motivated to find the least exercise they needed to feel these effects, as many elderly people with knee pain were hard to move.
"Many evidence suggests that physical activity is useful for people with arthritis. What this study is further demonstrating is just a one-hour short walk every week, which is helpful in helping people maintain the capabilities that are essential to independence, "said lead author Dorothy Dunlop, a Northwestern medical lecturer University of Feinberg.
It is currently believed that more than 30 million Americans have knee osteoarthritis in at least one foot – a figure that will only increase with an aging population. And agencies such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise adults with osteoarthritis to try to get about two and a half hours of exercise per week at least. The team says their discoveries should discourage people from making this recommendation easier.
"This is encouraging news because one hour can be a feasible goal for many people with stiffness or joint pain, for which the standard two-and-a-half hour work per week is difficult," said Dunlop. One possible objection to the study is that people who can exercise in the first place may have been healthier in general than those who did not exercise much later, but other studies consistently link the exercises with the benefits of preventing or management of knee osteoarthritis As always, the message for home is to move as often as you can – even just for a walk around the block