According to research, individuals at risk of osteoarthritis can delay the onset of osteoarthritis or even prevent it with basic changes to their physical activity. The study results reveal that taking part in a high-impact activity like running, more than 1 hour each day at least 3 times per week seems to be related to more degenerated cartilage and a potentially higher risk of osteoarthritis. Then again, participating in light exercise and staying away from activities that involve repeated knee-bending could protect against the onset of osteoarthritis.
Individuals who participated in the study included 66 men and 99 women aged 45 – 55. The individuals were separated into 3 strength training and exercise levels. Strength training groups were divided into none, minimal and frequent levels. Exercise groups were divided into sedentary, light exercisers and moderate to strenuous exercise levels. Activities involving knee bending were also assessed.
MRI exams showed that the healthiest knee cartilage was found in light exercisers, and healthier cartilage was found in individuals with minimal strength training compared to individuals with either frequent or no strength training.
In women who performed any amount of strength training, moderate to strenuous exercise was linked to higher water content as well as increased degeneration of collagen architecture in the knee, which indicates that moderate to strenuous exercise could accelerate degeneration of cartilage, placing these women at increased risk of osteoarthritis.
The results also revealed that frequent activities involving knee bending, like lifting objects weighing in excess of 25 pounds, climbing up at least 10 flights of stairs each day, or kneeling, deep knee bending or squatting for at least 30 minutes each day, were linked to higher water content and abnormalities of the cartilage.
Known risk factors for degeneration of cartilage include frequent knee bending, knee injuries, excess weight and strenuous or severe physical activity.
Individuals can reduce osteoarthritis risk by keeping a healthy weight and avoiding strenuous exercise and risky activities. Lower-impact sports, like swimming, walking or using an elliptical trainer are more likely beneficial compared to high-impact sports, like tennis or running.
The results show that light exercise, in particular frequent walking, is a safer choice to maintain healthy cartilage.