Knee arthritis is no fun.
It makes walking, bending and straightening more painful, sometimes to the point where sufferers simply stop moving around.
Luckily, a new study in the journal Arthritis Care & Research shows that we shouldn’t necessarily hang up our walking shoes just because we develop knee osteoarthritis.
Researchers studied 59 people with a diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis: 48 women and 11 men. Most of them were in their mid-fifties and sixties, and their average age was 61.1 years.
The researchers didn’t look at people who were using walking aids or who had surgery, which means that those with severe knee arthritis were likely excluded.
To assess their pain levels, they completed two questionnaires every three months or so: the pain subscale of the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score questionnaire and the P4 pain scale.
They also wore accelerometers for one week every three months to measure their daily number of steps.
By the end of the three years, it became clear that pain did not predict how far these people were willing to walk. Those with mild and moderate pain walked the same distance as those who were pain-free.
So why the difference?
It turned out that other factors were influencing how far people were willing to walk. The oldest and heaviest participants did less exercise than the younger and thinner ones, and everyone exercised more during the summer than during the other seasons, especially during the winter, which is what you might expect.
The study showed that pain does not seem to put people off walking as much as things like being overweight does. So, for arthritis patients, it might be better to help them to concentrate on food education and meal planning, so they can lose weight and make exercise more comfortable.
And not only that but helping them to find enjoyable indoor exercises during the winter months could also help them to reap the rewards of exercise.