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Vigorous Exercise Safe for Those at Risk of Knee Arthritis

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: May 12th 2020

new article illustration

TUESDAY, May 12, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- People at high risk for knee arthritis don't need to avoid jogging and other types of vigorous exercise, a new study suggests.

Some folks hold back on physical activity because they fear it will increase their chances of developing knee arthritis, so researchers from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago took a closer look.

"Our study findings convey a reassuring message that adults at high risk for knee [arthritis] may safely engage in long-term strenuous physical activity at a moderate level to improve their general health and well-being," said study author Alison Chang, associate professor of physical therapy and human movement sciences.

The study included nearly 1,200 people from several U.S. cities, ages 45-79, who were at high risk for knee arthritis but had no evidence of the condition.

Obesity, previous joint injury, surgery, aging and chronic knee symptoms increase the risk of developing arthritis of the knee.

Participants were followed for up to 10 years. Chang and her colleagues found that long-term participation in strenuous physical activities such as jogging, swimming, cycling, singles tennis, aerobic dance and skiing was not associated with risk of developing knee arthritis.

In fact, those who did vigorous exercise had a 30% lower risk of knee arthritis, but that's not considered statistically significant, according to the authors.

Lots of sitting wasn't associated with either an increased or reduced risk of arthritis.

"People suffering from knee injuries or who had arthroscopic surgical repair of ACL or meniscus are often warned that they are well on the path to develop knee [arthritis]," Chang said in a university news release.

"They may be concerned that participating in vigorous activities or exercises could cause pain and further tissue damage. To mitigate this perceived risk, some have cut down on or discontinued strenuous physical activities, although these activities are beneficial to physical and mental health," she said.

The bottom line? "Health care providers may consider incorporating physical activity counseling as part of the standard care for high-risk individuals at an early stage when physical activity engagement is more attainable," Chang said.

The study findings were published May 4 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on arthritis.