Joint Pain Forum – News you can use!
No link between exercise, risk of knee osteoarthritis
July 30, 2007
From the National Institutes of Health
Researchers have found that recreational exercise has no effect on the
risk of developing knee osteoarthritis (OA). The results of their
study, which monitored 1,279 older adults over a 9-year study period,
suggested that older adults—even people who are overweight—can
participate in recreational exercise without worrying that they might
develop knee OA as a result. The research was partly supported by the
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
David T. Felson, M.D., and his colleagues at Boston University School
of Medicine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital studied 1,279 adults whose
parents or in-laws participated in the original Framingham Heart Study.
The average age of participants at the start of the study was 53.2
years. After baseline evaluation between 1993 and 1994, the researchers
followed the participants for nine years on average, to see if
recreational activity levels influenced development of knee OA.
When enrolling the subjects, the researchers asked them about
knee pain symptoms and activities levels (including walking or jogging
for exercise and working up a sweat). The researchers also weighed the
participants and examined X-rays of their knee joints to check for
narrowing of joint spaces, which is a sign of OA. Approximately seven
years later, researchers quizzed participants about the extent to which
they exercised regularly. Two years later, they called the subjects
back, weighed them again, and re-examined them for OA using knee
radiographs and asking questions about knee pain and injury.
Using data from baseline and follow-up examinations, the
researchers assessed whether exercise had any influence on knee OA.
Analysis showed that neither recreational walking, jogging, frequently
working up a sweat, nor high activity levels in comparison to peers
changed the risks of developing knee OA. Comparing radiographs taken at
baseline and at study completion, the authors reported that physical
activity did not increase or decrease chances of narrowing of knee
joint space, a typical sign of knee OA.
Being overweight or obese is a risk
factor for developing knee OA. Therefore, the researchers looked into
the relationship between exercise and knee OA among participants who
were overweight or obese. The results for overweight or obese
participants were similar to those for all participants: none of the
activities that were monitored changed risks of developing knee OA or
having narrowed knee joint space. That means that for obese or
overweight persons, exercise does not increase the risk of developing
knee arthritis, in contrast to results from previous studies.
OA is the most common type of arthritis, and is seen
especially among older people. An estimated 12.1 percent of the U.S.
population (nearly 21 million Americans) age 25 and older have OA. It
is also more likely to occur in people who are overweight and in those
with jobs that stress particular joints. Osteoarthritis mostly affects
cartilage, the hard but slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones
where they meet to form a joint. Osteoarthritis most often occurs in
the hands, spine, knees and hips. People with osteoarthritis usually
have joint pain and some movement limitations. Fortunately, most people
with osteoarthritis live active, productive lives despite these
limitations. They do so by using treatment strategies such as exercise,
weight control, rest and relief from stress on joints, pain relief
techniques, medications, surgery, and complementary and alternative
Other support for this research came from the National Institute on Aging and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and
Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the Department of
Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health, is to support
research into the causes, treatment and prevention of arthritis and
musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical
scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of
information on research progress in these diseases. For more
information about NIAMS, call the information clearinghouse at (301)
495-4484 or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS Web site at
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