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This comes to us from the Missouri Arthritis Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (MARRTC). It was written by Ferdous Al-Faruque, MARRTC Staff. You can learn more about MARRTC at http://marrtc.missouri.edu/.

Losing 15 pounds could alleviate knee pain in people with knee osteoarthritis by 50 percent, finds a new study by Johns Hopkins University. "That was really surprising to us," said Susan Bartlett, principal investigator and an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins. "We thought that weight loss would be helpful, we certainly thought that it would take more than 15 pounds to have an improvement of 50 percent, because even our best drugs only reduce pain by about 30 percent."

People in the study were middle-aged adults and mostly women. Participants had knee osteoarthritis and were either overweight or obese. They were asked to gradually add 30 minutes of walking to their daily routine or take a total of 10,000 steps a day.

"We encouraged them to break that into small bouts of walking, so rather then go out and walk for 30 minutes, we really encouraged them to do more of what is known as lifestyle exercise," said Bartlett. "Park further in a parking lot and walk a couple of extra minutes in to work in the morning or walk a couple of extra minutes out at the end of the day."

She said that it was important to break up the walking into small episodes to prevent excessive pressure on their knees.

"They could walk 10 minutes three times a day or walk for five minutes six times a day, however they wanted to do it," said Bartlett. "Most of them just looked for creative ways during the day to be active."

After four months in the study, participants lost an average of 15 pounds or 7.3 percent of their starting weight.

After one year, researchers checked the progress of the participants. They found that 20 percent of the participants lost more weight, but 46 percent had regained weight.

"Even with weight regain, they were still enjoying many of the benefits," said Bartlett. "Their pain was still 30 percent less than at the baseline, and their ability to function was 40 percent better even with the weight regain."

She added the results of this research were good news for doctors and patients.

"lt's a very new message for physicians and for their patients to be able to say, everything helps," Bartlett said. "You'll see improvements with the first 5 pounds, you'll see more improvements with 10 pounds, and by the time you've lost 15 pounds, you're able to help your knees much better than any medication I can give you."

Bartlett says reducing that pain is easy and inexpensive.

"Get yourself a pedometer, it's only about $10, work up slowly over a few weeks or months to 10,000 steps" she advises people with knee osteoarthritis. "It's a great way to improve your health, reduce the pain that you have from your arthritis, and enjoy the benefits without having to go to a gym, buy a membership, or wear special clothing."