Arthrosis in the knee wears out the articular cartilage. Severe pain can result. Regular walking can help – at least if you start early enough.

According to a study, regular walks can prevent pain in knee osteoarthritis. Grace Lo from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston (Texas, USA) and her team examined more than 1,200 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, as described in the journal Arthritis

Accordingly, in the early stages of the disease, walking can prevent the development of common complaints. In contrast, no effect was measurable in people who already had pain from osteoarthritis.

“The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends regular physical activity to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity,” Lo said in a press release. The study now shows the long-term benefits of exercise for osteoarthritis patients.

Disease very common in Germany

According to the German Arthrosis Aid, around five million people in Germany suffer from osteoarthritis. Older people in particular are affected. Years of stress can lead to a gradual degradation of the cartilage in the knee joint, among other things. If the protective cartilage is destroyed, this leads to severe pain. Those affected can no longer put proper weight on the knee, do less sport and are restricted in everyday life.

Doctors often prescribe painkillers or inject cortisone into the joint space to combat the acute symptoms. However, this does not stop the progressive destruction of the joint. Those affected often need an operation or an artificial knee joint.

Walking could prevent pain

Lo and her team focused their work on more than 1,200 patients over the age of 50 at four US hospitals. While some initially complained of knee pain, in others the disease was only visible on X-rays. In order to investigate the influence of walking on osteoarthritis, those affected repeatedly filled out questionnaires about the frequency of their knee pain over a period of eight years. At the same time, they indicated how often and for how long they actively walked each day.

Patients who exercised regularly and did not complain of pain at the beginning of the observation period had a clear advantage: compared to non-walkers, they were 40 percent less likely to develop knee pain. Joint wear also progressed more slowly. Patients with bowlegs benefited particularly from regular walking. “Our results show that frequent walking can help patients with osteoarthritis of the knee against frequent pain – and possibly also prevent additional damage to the joint,” says Lo.