Knee osteoarthritis (OA)—a progressive disease that destroys articular tissues and cartilage—affects about 13% of women aged 60 and older. According to a report published in the Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine (2011; 2 [2], 205–12), the percentage of the overall population affected by OA is expected to increase owing to the growth of the older-adult segment and to high overweight and obesity rates. However, this study shows there may a solution for women with mild knee OA: progressive-impact exercise.

Eighty postmenopausal women (mean age 58) suffering from mild knee OA were divided into two groups—a supervised, progressive high-impact training group that met three times per week for 12 months, and a non-exercise control group. Patellar cartilage quality, leg muscle strength and power, and cardiorespiratory fitness were all assessed before and after the intervention.

Post intervention data showed a 7% greater change in full-thickness patellar cartilage in the exercise group compared with the control group. There were also significant improvements in the deep half of tissue, the total lateral segment, and the
lateral deep and lateral superficial zones among the exercise group. This group’s leg extensor force increased by 11%, and cardiorespiratory capacity improved by 4%.

While high-impact exercise has been considered dangerous for this population, the researchers suggested that it may benefit women with mild knee OA.

“Progressively implemented high-impact and intensive exercise created enough stimuli and had favorable effects [on both] patellar cartilage quality and physical function in postmenopausal women with mild knee OA,” they concluded.

The report was published online in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2015; doi: 10.1249/ MSS.0000000000000629).

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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