Regular physical activity may strenghten knee cartilage

her an exercise group or a control group. The exercise group was enrolled in a supervised program of aerobic and weight-bearing moves, for 1 hour, 3 times weekly for 4 months. At the study's onset and follow-up, subjects from both groups underwent MRI scans to evaluate knee cartilage. The technique used focused specifically on the cartilage's glycosaminoglycan (GAG) content, a key component of cartilage strength and elasticity. Subjects also answered a series of questions about their knee pain and stiffness, as well as their general activity level. Of the original 45 subjects, 30--16 in the exercise group and 14 in the control group--completed the trial and all post-trial assessments.

In the exercise group, many subjects reported gains in physical activity and functional performance tests compared with subjects in the control group. Improvements in tests of aerobic capacity and stamina affirmed the self-reported changes. What's more, MRI measures of the GAG content showed a strong correlation with the increased physical training of the subjects who had regularly participated in moderate, supervised exercise.

"This study shows compositional changes in adult joint cartilage as a result of increased exercise, which confirms the observations made in prior animal studies but has not been previously shown in humans," notes Dr. Dahlberg. "The changes imply that human cartilage responds to physiologic loading in a way similar to that exhibited by muscle and bone, and that previously established positive symptomatic effects of exercise in patients with OA may occur in parallel or even be caused by improved cartilage properties."

As Drs. Dahlberg and Roos acknowledge, the study does have limitations--its small sample size and narrow focus on meniscectomized knee joints--and makes no claims for predicting the long-term effects of exercise on cartilage. The conclusi

Contact: Amy Molnar
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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