Knee osteoarthritis can make it particularly difficult for older adults to walk, climb stairs and perform other basic daily activities. According to new research, one way to preserve physical function with the condition is to walk 6,000 steps a day.
Some research suggests that 10,000 steps a day should be the physical activity goal for general health. One study found that women who walked this much exhibited lower blood pressure, and another found that women’s blood glucose levels were improved. Still, the number isn’t endorsed by major health organizations; meeting the CDC’s guideline of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise weekly requires between 7,000 and 8,000 steps daily. Learn more about the 10,000 steps debate at www.livescience.com.
For only 6,000 steps a day, people with knee osteoarthritis may improve their prognosis. According to thewalkingsite.com, the average person’s stride length is 2.5 feet; this means that it takes a little more than 2,000 steps to walk a mile. The goal, then, for osteoarthritis patients should be approximately three miles of walking per day.
Researchers tracked the number of steps taken by 1,788 knee osteoarthritis patients over a week; they then followed up with participants two years later to assess physical function. They found that participants who walked less than 6,000 steps a day had worse outcomes and, for each additional 1,000 steps a day (about half a mile), self-reported functional measures improved 18% and performance-based measures improved 16%.
See more on this study at onlinelibrary.wiley.com.
There are a couple different ways patients can begin working to incorporate 6,000 daily steps into their osteoarthritis treatment plan. One of the easiest would be to invest in a pedometer, which counts your steps. These are available as stand-alone devices; there are also apps you can use on a mobile device to track how much you walk. You may only need to use a pedometer or app for the first few weeks until you have a sense of how much walking you need to do in order to hit your goal.
Another option would be to use Google Maps or a similar site to measure the distance between locations you commonly travel to and from. If your work, friend’s house, grocery store, etc. are within walking distance, you can calculate the distance you walk between these destinations. This method doesn’t give you a good sense for how much you walk around the house or at work, but it’s a good way to ensure a rough baseline count.
While researchers are hard at work trying to nail down effective osteoarthritis prevention and treatment methods, patients need actionable steps (pun intended) they can take now. Shooting for 6,000 steps a day, or three miles, may improve your physical function a couple years down the line.