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 Led by David T. Felson of the Boston University School of Medicine in Boston, MA, researchers conducted a study of 1,279 subjects.

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 developing OA, physical activity did not contribute to this risk. Also, despite previous studies that suggested that exercise may prevent joint space loss, the study did not find this to be the case. "This suggests that in middle-aged and older adults who do not have OA, exercise does not protect against disease development," the authors state.

The study attempted to examine all the ways in which OA might appear by looking at X-rays that indicated the development of structural disease using a well-known index (the Kellgren and Lawrence scale), by looking at joint space loss, which is thought to indicate cartilage loss, and also by examining symptoms. The authors conclude: "Physical activity can be done safely without concerns that persons will develop OA as a consequence."

MEDICA.de; Source: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.