Arthritis sufferers could see their health improve simply by walking, according to a study conducted in Boston, US.
Researchers found that those who kept active – walking up to 6,000 steps a day – were much more likely to be mobile two years later.
Despite having osteoarthritis of the knees, many of the 1,800 male and female participants involved in the study found walking helped to keep their joints lubricated – thus prevented their condition from deteriorating.
The 50 – 79 year-olds wore pedometers for a week, which timed their walking speed and logged the number of steps they took each day.
Researchers then gave the participants a questionnaire to complete which assessed how easy they found keeping active and doing regular tasks such as dressing and housework.
This process was carried out again two years later to check the mobility of the participants.
It was discovered that those who managed to walk at least three miles a day saw a significantly slower decline in their osteoarthritis than those who hadn’t.
Overall, the findings – published in the journal, Arthritis Care & Research – showed that each extra 1,000 steps cuts the odds of loss of mobility by almost 20%.
Researcher Dr Daniel White said:
“We encourage those with, or at risk of, knee osteoarthritis to walk at least 3,000 or more steps each day, and ultimately progress to 6,000 steps daily to minimise the risk of developing difficulty with mobility.
“As clinicians, we should be promoting walking in our patients with knee osteoarthritis.”
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disease in the UK and is believed to affect around eight million Britons.
Professor Alan Silman, of Arthritis Research UK said:
“Exercise such as walking is vitally important for people with osteoarthritis of the knee, as long as they wear sensible trainer-type shoes with soft, thick soles and pace themselves.
“Many older people are worried [walking] will make their osteoarthritis worse, but we want to encourage them to keep doing the things they love.”