As people get older, aches and pains can become more problematic, especially if they develop some form of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form and occurs because of wear and tear on joints. Knees are often affected, but this shouldn’t stop older adults from partaking in active senior living.

Walking is an excellent, low-impact option that almost everyone, no matter their age, can take part in, and a study recently published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research found that walking at least 6,000 steps a day may protect people who are at risk of or have knee osteoarthritis from mobility issues.

“People usually average 100 steps per minute while they walk, so (6,000 steps) is roughly walking an hour a day,” lead author Daniel White, a research assistant professor in the department of physical therapy and athletic training at Boston University, told HealthDay. “It doesn’t seem to make a difference where the steps come from.”

White also noted in a statement that walking is an inexpensive activity, and although the more commonly known goal is 10,000 steps a day, the research shows that only 6,000 are needed to reap the benefits. For those who are new to exercise, they should start with 3,000 steps a day and work their way up.

Study results
Researchers included 1,788 participants who were followed for at least two years. Each person wore a Stepwatch Activity Monitor on their ankle to count their steps for at least three – but up to seven – days a week for 10 hours per day. The individuals were asked to walk at a pace of less than 2.2 miles per hour and had X-rays taken of their knees at the start of the study. Knee pain was also periodically assessed during the study time period.

The findings showed that the more steps people took, the better their knees were able to function, and for every additional 1,000 steps each participant took above what they walked in the beginning, there was a decrease in function limitations of 16 to 18 percent.

“This study just adds to the vast amount of research and common sense that tells us we need to get off our fannies and out the door,” Samantha Heller, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, told HealthDay. She added that walking is a good senior activity, even for people who complain of joint pain.

“What I explain to them is the less one moves, the weaker the muscles get, and the less stable the joints are, increasing inflammation and pain,” she said.

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