Walking 6,000 steps a day can significantly reduce the risk of functional limitation among people with or at risk of knee osteoarthritis (OA), according to a new study. And it doesn't have to be by way of a structured exercise program—the steps taken in everyday activities can add up to better function in the long run.
In the study, 1,788 participants with or at risk for knee OA were monitored with an ankle pedometer for 2 years. They were not instructed to engage in any formal activity program. Researchers noted at the follow-up that 70% of participants who averaged 6,000 or more steps per day reported no decrease in function, while 70% of those who walked less than 6,000 steps experienced limitations. The findings were published in Arthritis Care & Research (abstract only available for free).
Though authors cited the 6,000-step mark as the point with the “best discriminating ability" relative to functional limitations, they noted that as few as 3,000 steps a day reduced problems, with every additional 1,000 steps lowering limitation risk by at least 16%. The effects were similar between individuals determined to have knee OA at baseline and those found to be at risk for knee OA.
Although the study calls for more extensive studies to reinforce the findings, authors believe that the results point to a possible set of clinical recommendations. "Specifically, walking > 3,000 steps per day may be an initial minimum daily walking goal to recommend," the authors write. "Increasing this amount to walking > 6,000 steps per day may be an ideal amount on an ongoing basis as this threshold best discriminated those who developed functional limitation from those who did not."
Daniel K. White, PT, ScD, MSc, assistant professor of physical therapy at Boston University, was primary author of the study.
Research-related stories featured in PT in Motion News are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.
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