A new Northwestern Medicine study that followed individuals at high risk for knee osteoarthritis (OA) for 10 years suggests that vigorous exercise did not increase their risk of developing OA and may even protect them from it. The study was published in JAMA Network Open.
“Our study findings convey a reassuring message that adults at high risk for knee OA may safely engage in long-term strenuous physical activity at a moderate level to improve their general health and well-being,” Alison Chang, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, says in a media release from Northwestern University.
In this observational study of 1,194 persons at high risk for but without radiographic evidence of knee OA who were followed for up to 10 years, long-term participation in strenuous physical activities was not associated with risk of developing radiographic knee OA.
In fact, the vigorously exercising individuals in the study were 30% less likely to develop OA, although the number was not considered statistically significant.
The activities included jogging, swimming, cycling, singles tennis, aerobic dance and skiing. Persistent extensive sitting was not associated with either elevated or reduced risk.
Excessive body weight, history of joint injury or surgery, aging and chronic knee symptoms place an individual at elevated risk for developing knee OA. Although regular physical activity and exercise provide multiple health benefits, uncertainty about whether vigorous physical activity participation could cause pain and further tissue damage is a common concern.
The researchers’ analysis showed nearly 50% of the adults at high risk for this disease did not engage in any strenuous physical activity over 8 years, the release explains.
The study analyzed data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative, a longitudinal observational study of men and women (age range: 45 to 79 years) with or at an increased risk of developing knee OA, recruited from four communities in the US.
At the study onset and subsequent visits for up to 10 years of follow-up, the participants received x-rays for both knees to determine knee OA disease status and reported their weekly strenuous physical activity participation and sitting patterns.
In 1,194 participants who had no knee OA confirmed by X-ray at the study onset, researchers identified four distinct long-term trajectory patterns of strenuous physical activity participation and three distinct trajectory patterns of extensive sitting over an 8-year period.
They then examined if long-term engagement of strenuous physical activity or extensive sitting behavior were each associated with risk of developing knee OA.
“Adults at high risk for knee OA may safely engage in long-term strenuous physical activity at a moderate level. 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 concludes, in the release.
[Source(s): Northwestern University, News-Medical Life Sciences]