NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - A promising new study suggests that walking could ward off knee pain for people with osteoarthritis.
Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 people aged 50 and older with knee osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis in the United States.
Some had persistent pain at the outset, while others did not.
After four years, those who started without frequent knee pain and walked for exercise at least 10 times were less likely to experience new, regular bouts of stiffness or aches around their knees, and had less structural damage in their knees.
The study suggested that people with knee osteoarthritis and who are bow-legged might particularly benefit from walking.
The research offers the potential of an easy - and free - way to combat one of the most common culprits of knee pain among older adults.
The findings represent "a paradigm shift", said Dr Grace Hsiao-Wei Lo, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and lead author on the study.
"Everyone's always looking for some kind of drug. This highlights the importance and likelihood that interventions for osteoarthritis might be something different, including good old exercise."
The research suggests that exercise could help manage osteoarthritis in other joints, she added, including those in the hips, hands and feet.
Osteoarthritis, sometimes referred to as "wear and tear" arthritis, affects more than 32.5 million adults in the US and occurs when the joint cartilage breaks down and the underlying bone begins to change, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The risk of developing the condition increases with age and about one-third of people older than 60 have knee osteoarthritis, Dr Lo said.
Many patients take medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen to treat the pain, she added, which in large doses can lead to kidney issues and ulcers.
Instead, they may be able to turn to exercise. For decades, health experts saw walking primarily as a way to boost cardiovascular health, said Dr Elaine Husni, a rheumatologist at Cleveland Clinic who was not involved in the study.