If you suffer from knee OA and you’re worried that walking across the park or leaving the car at home when you nip to the shops is going to make matters worse, then think again: a new study from America claims that if older adults with the ailment added a mere five minutes of brisk walking to their day, the odds of them needing knee replacement surgery could drop by as much as 16 percent – as long as the walking pace is a notch up from a mere saunter.
The study, which was conducted by scientists at the University of Delaware, provided portable tracking devices to over 1,800 older adults with knee arthritis and monitored their walking intensities for at least four days, in an attempt to examine the effects of replacing non-walking time with time spent walking at different intensities. Their findings?
Substituting just 5 minutes of downtime with moderate-to-high intensity walking was linked to a 16 percent decline in the odds of needing knee replacement surgery. By ‘moderate-to-high intensity’, they mean a brisk walk which takes in over 100 steps per minute.
Why does walking work? There are four key reasons;
Walking rebuilds the joints
Cartilage – the joint tissue which acts like a shock absorber for your knees – can become damaged and worn, which brings on knee OA, resulting in pain, stiffness, and difficulty in moving. But cartilage can also repair itself and can absorb the nutrients from the compression and decompression of your body weight as you walk, meaning that a brisk yomp can speed up that repair job.
Walking strengthens the legs
…and stronger leg muscles can not only take a level of pressure off your joints, but they can also handle more of your body weight, resulting in less knee pain.
Walking helps to lose weight
One pound of weight lost equals four less pounds of pressure on your knees – and less pressure equals less pain. And the best low-impact method of losing weight is to commit to a more intensive daily walking distance.
Walking can help boost mental well-being
Like all exercise, walking is one of the best natural ways of getting your endorphins to kick in.
The great thing about the results of the study, according to the research team, is that for the majority of people, it’s not going to be that much of a lifestyle change. Furthermore, it wouldn’t require the expense of a gym membership or any equipment other than a pair of comfortable shoes or trainers. As they point out, the best exercise programmes are the ones you can actually stick to – and when the only sacrifices a person has to make is to get off the bus a stop earlier or actually get leave the house a bit more, there’s an opportunity for the physical activity to snowball.
The moral of the story? Every journey begins with a single step – as long as it’s a brisk one.