NEW YORK – Arthritis sufferers could keep the condition at bay by walking three miles a day.
Those who kept active despite having bad knees were much more likely to be mobile two years later, a study found.
Some 3,000 steps a day helped, but 6,000 steps a day, or roughly three miles, was ideal.
Researchers from Boston University in the U.S. said people with arthritis in their knees should wear a pedometer to measure the number of steps they take, in the same way as someone on a diet regularly weighs themselves.
The study involved almost 1,800 men and women with osteoarthritis of the knee or judged to be at risk of it.
Some eight million Britons have osteoarthritis, the most common form of joint disease.
Stiff, swollen and painful joints can make walking difficult. Everyday activities such as washing, dressing, turning keys and opening jars can also be a struggle.
Participants in the study, who were aged between 50 and 79, wore pedometers for a week and the number of steps they took each day was logged.
Their walking speed was timed and they filled in a questionnaire about how easy they found tasks such as walking and dressing.
They filled in the survey again two years later and underwent a second walking test, to check if they had slowed down.
Few of those who had clocked up more than 3,000 steps a day – roughly a mile-and-a-half – had dramatically worsened.
And walking at least 6,000 steps was particularly beneficial, the findings published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research showed.
The result could not be explained simply by those who were fittest at the start of the study declining more slowly than others, researchers said.
Overall, the more the adults walked, the better off they were two years later.
Each extra 1,000 steps cut the odds of a big reduction in mobility by almost 20 per cent – likely by keeping the joints lubricated.