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Jun 12, 2014 10:56 AM EDT

6,000 Steps A Day Reduces The Risk Of Knee Osteoarthritis Limitations

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Walking reduces the risk of functional limitation associated with knee osteoarthritis, according to a recent study.

Researchers found that walking at least 6,000 steps per day may protect those with or at risk of knee osteoarthritis from developing mobility issues, such as difficulty getting up from a chair and climbing stairs.

"Walking is an inexpensive activity and despite the common popular goal of walking 10,000 steps per day, our study finds only 6,000 steps are necessary to realize benefits," researcher Daniel White said in a statement. "We encourage those with or at risk of knee OA to walk at least 3,000 or more steps each day, and ultimately progress to 6,000 steps daily to minimize the risk of developing difficulty with mobility."

Nearly 27 million Americans age 25 and older are diagnosed with osteoarthritis according to a prevalence study. Previous research reports the condition is the leading cause of functional limitation among older adults, making walking and climbing stairs difficult. Moreover, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) state that 80 percent of Osteoarthritis patients have some limitation in movement, with 11 percent of adults with knee osteoarthritis needing assistance with personal care assistance.

For the study, researchers measured daily steps taken by more than 1,700 people with or at risk for knee osteoarthritis. Participants had to wear a monitor for at least seven days to measure the amount of steps they took daily.  Their functional limitation was evaluated two years later.

Based on their findings, Walking an additional 1,000 steps each was associated with between a 16 to 18 percent reduction in incident functional limitation two years later. Walking less than 6,000 steps daily was the best threshold for identifying those who developed functional limitation.

The findings were recently published in the American College of Rheumatology journal Arthritis Care & Research

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