RSNA Logo Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease causing pain, swelling and stiffness may now be restricted. A latest study asserts that people at risk for osteoarthritis can delay onset of the disease or even prevent it by performing physical activity. It was mentioned that moderate to strenuous exercise supposedly accelerates cartilage degeneration, further elevating risk of developing osteoarthritis.

132 asymptomatic participants at a probable threat of knee osteoarthritis and 33 age as well as body mass index-matched controls were included in the study. The study comprised 99 women and 66 men between the age group of 45 to 55 years. Volunteers were segregated into three exercise and strength-training levels on the basis of their responses to the Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly (PASE) questionnaire. While the exercise levels were sedentary, light exercisers and moderate to strenuous exercisers, strength-training groups engulfed none, minimal and frequent. Even knee-bending activities were assessed throughout the investigation.

On examining MRI exams it appeared that light exercisers had the healthiest knee cartilage among all exercise levels. Patients with minimal strength training reported healthier cartilage as compared to those with no strength training or frequent strength training. Moderate to strenuous exercise in women who did any amount of strength training was apparently linked with greater water content and more degenerated collagen architecture in the knee. Scientists conclude that moderate to strenuous exercise promotes cartilage degeneration and increases risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Thomas M. Link, M.D., professor of radiology and chief of musculoskeletal imaging at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and senior author of the study, said, “According to the results of our study, participating in a high-impact activity, such as running, more than one hour per day at least three times a week appears associated with more degenerated cartilage and potentially a higher risk for development of osteoarthritis. On the other hand, engaging in light exercise and refraining from frequent knee-bending activities may protect against the onset of the disease.”

Frequent knee-bending activities including climbing up at least 10 flights of stairs a day, lifting objects weighing more than 25 pounds, or squatting, kneeling or deep knee bending for at least 30 minutes per day seems to be related to higher water content and cartilage abnormalities. Risk factors for cartilage degeneration may include excess weight, knee injuries, frequent knee bending and severe or strenuous physical activity. Chances of osteoarthritis are possibly decreased by maintaining a healthy weight and preventing risky activities as well as strenuous exercise. Lower-impact sports like walking, swimming or using an elliptical trainer are probably more beneficial than high-impact sports, such as running or tennis. Investigators conclude that light exercise, especially frequent walking is safer for preserving healthy cartilage.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).