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Moderate exercise does not increase risk of osteoarthritis, study says

September 5, 2013

Seniors are often told how important staying physically active is to healthy aging, but concerns about whether exercise will cause damage to their older joints may stop them from heading out for a walk every morning. However, new research may help allay some of those fears.

Scientists from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine found the subjects - all of whom were 45 or older - did not see an increased osteoarthritis risk if they engaged in moderate physical activity for two and a half hours a week.

The findings, published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research, were based on an analysis of data concerning more than 1,500 subjects. Researchers relied on both reported levels of pain and X-ray images to assess whether there was an association between meeting the recommended guidelines of 150 minutes of physical activity each week and an increased risk of arthritis in the knee. Along with finding no connection between  this kind of normal activity and arthritis, the relationship for those who exercised five hours a week was not statistically significant.

"This study shows that engaging in physical activity at these levels is not going to put you at a greater risk of knee osteoarthritis," said Dr. Joanne Jordan, the study's lead author. "Furthermore, we found this held true no matter what a person's race, sex or body weight is. There was absolutely no association between these factors and a person's risk." 

The study isn't the only one that should encourage seniors to meet the guidelines. Recent findings from Queen's University suggested that it doesn't matter if older adults exercise in short stretches or longer more intense exercises sessions - what matters is meeting that 150-minute threshold.