Regular exercise is recommended for middle-aged and older people, but the effect of exercise on the development of osteoarthritis (OA) in older people is unclear, especially if they are overweight. Some studies have suggested that exercise has a protective effect, but few studies have been conducted where patients are asked about physical activity and followed to find out what develops. Meanwhile, obesity is a major risk factor for knee OA, and the question has been raised as to whether weight-bearing activity may be harmful to people who are overweight. A new study published in the February 2007 issue of Arthritis Care & Research (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/arthritiscare) examined the effects of physical activity over a long period in older adults, many of whom were overweight, and found that exercise neither protects against nor increases the risk of knee OA.
Led by David T. Felson of the Boston University School of Medicine in Boston, MA, researchers conducted a study of 1,279 subjects from the Framingham Offspring cohort, which consists of the offspring of the original Framingham cohort. Persons were questioned about recent physical activity they had engaged in on a regular basis, and between one and two years later (1993-1994) had knee X-rays. They were also asked questions about knee symptoms such as pain, aching or stiffness. Between 2002 and 2005 they were called back for a follow-up exam, during which they underwent the same knee X-rays and were asked the same questions about symptoms, but not about physical activity. They were also weighed initially and at follow-up, when X-rays were read by a bone and joint radiologist and a rheumatologist.
Analysis of the results showed no relationship between recreational walking, jogging or other self-reported activity and the development of knee OA. Even though the overweight patients had an increased risk of de
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