Lower limb osteoarthritis, as the leading cause of reduced mobility in the elderly, is likely to affect a considerable number of people: an individual has a 25% chance of suffering from hip osteoarthritis1 and a 45% chance of suffering from knee osteoarthritis during his/her lifetime2. The healthcare and economic impact of this disease is such that the most effective therapeutic strategies need to be identified in order to delay its onset and to reduce the pain associated with its progression.
Currently, physicians recommend following a physical exercise programme based on the results of several randomised trials. One UK research group, however, attempted to determine whether one physical activity was more beneficial than another3. For this, the scientists reviewed the trials, comparing the efficacy of the various types of exercise both amongst each other and against the lack of exercise. The results indubitably showed that physical exercise was essential to reduce pain and to improve joint mobility. They also demonstrated that programmes combining muscle reinforcement, limbering and aerobics exercises are the most effective.
There is no need, however, to follow particularly complex programmes for distinct improvements to be seen. A study4 published in September 2014 highlighted the benefits of walking against both these types of osteoarthritis. Researchers at Boston University measured the number of steps taken each day by nearly 1788 individuals suffering from knee osteoarthritis and measured functional limitations two years later. They observed that 6000 steps per day were sufficient to confer benefits. Beyond this figure, each additional daily series of 10,000 steps reduced the risk of functional limitations by 16 to 18%.
1. Murphy LB, Helmick CG, Schwartz TA, Renner JB, Tudor G, Koch GG, et al. One in four people may develop symptomatic hip osteoarthritis in his or her lifetime. Osteoarthritis
2. Cartilage 2010;18:1372-9.3 Murphy L, Schwartz TA, Helmick CG, Renner JB, Tudor G, Koch G, et al. Lifetime risk of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum 2008;59:1207-13
3. Uthman OA et coll. : Exercise for lower limb osteoarthritis: systematic review incorporating trial sequential analysis and network meta-analysis. BMJ., 2013 ;347: f5555. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f5555. http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f5555.full.pdf+html
4. White D. K. & Al. Daily Walking and the Risk of Incident Functional Limitation in Knee Osteoarthritis: An Observational Study, Arthritis Care & Research, Volume 66, Issue 9, pages 1328–1336, September 2014.