Health experts say we should walk 10,000 steps a day, bust most Americans average only half that many. Walking regularly is great for your health and can help reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Thanks to tracking products like Fit Bit and Vivoactive monitoring your step count has become all the rage lately. However, all that time spent on your feet is also time spent on your knees and after a few decades, they often start to show signs of wear.
Researchers found that a majority of people have the tendency to shift the bulk of their body weight forward when they walk, this increases the amount of weight placed on the knee joint, which can increase the rate of cartilage degeneration.
They also found that 41% of adults have an inward-leaning knee alignment, which can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis (OA). So finding ways to exercise that put less pressure on your knees is essential for slowing the progression of OA. Physical therapists often recommend swimming or water aerobics and cycling – pools may be hard to come by and not everyone enjoys riding a bike on rainy days. But there may be another option, new research shows that incline walking on a treadmill may be a good alternative exercise to walking on level surface.
One of the benefits of walking on an incline is that it increases your metabolic rate – this burns calories faster in a shorter amount of time than walking on a level plane. Since obesity is one of the causes of osteoarthritis, having your weight under control is key to slowing cartilage decay.
Incline walking also triggers more muscle activation of the quads and hamstrings than level walking. This builds up strength in the leg muscles and tendons that support the knee joint.
Dr. Henry Wang PhD the assistant professor of exercise at Ball State University in Muncie IN recently conducted a study to determine if incline walking was a suitable exercise for patients recovering from knee surgery or struggling with obesity to minimize the amount of load on the joint, osteoarthritis risk, or damage to a total knee replacement (TKR).
In the course of their experiment, the researchers found that a majority subjects, when walking on a treadmill with an incline of 5-15%, built leg muscle strength while also lessening the amount of pressure being loaded onto the knee joint. This, in turn, helped reduce the amount of damage being done to the knee joint which can slow the progression of OA.
If knee pain is affecting your life contact us to schedule a comprehensive evaluation with one of our physicians. Learn what your treatment options are and be proactive about your knee health so you can keep living the life you want.