How Much Walking Is Good For Arthritis? (Walk More With Less Pain)

Does Arthritis Pain Limit How Far You Can Walk Comfortably?

Everyone tells you that walking is good for arthritis pain.

And that’s true to some extent.

But it creates a Catch 22 when you need to walk to get your joints to stop hurting, but you need your joints to stop hurting in order to be able to walk.

Watch this video to learn how much walking is good for arthritis plus how to walk enough to relieve your pain without increasing it in the process.

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How Much Walking Is Good For Arthritis?

Just about every major health organization recommends walking around 30 minutes per days at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes per week.

That includes the:

  • American Heart Association (AHA)
  • Center For Disease Control (CDC)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ASCM)
  • American Geriatric Society
  • Ottowa Panel on Knee Arthritis

But if you can only walk 10 minutes before your joints start hurting, 30 minutes sounds overwhelming.

How To Walk Longer Without Arthritis Pain

Although 30 minutes of walking per day is good for arthritis pain, it doesn't need to 30 continuous minutes.

That means that 2-3 shorter walks per day may be just as good as one longer walk, and in some cases, possibly even better.

An article in Gait & Posture, compared the effect of walking 45 minutes continuously or in 3 bouts of 15 minutes separated by an hour in between.

Joint loading forces increased after 30 minutes of walking in both conditions, but less pain was reported whereas less pain was reported when walking in intermittent bouts.

Why Is Walking Good For Arthritis Pain?

Walking helps promote healthy cartilage by stimulating chondrocytes to produce type II collagen and other structures that make up cartilage.  These include hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate.

Cartilage structure

It takes a certain amount of walking to stimulate the chondrocytes, but once that happens, any further walking may not have extra beneficial effects as far as cartilage health goes.

Exercise effects plateau with time

In other words you reach a point of diminishing returns.

On the flip side, the longer you walk, the greater the inflammatory and other negative side effects become.

Good and bad effects of exercise on arthritis

This is especially true if your muscles are deconditioned and can’t help with shock absorption.

So the net beneficial effect is the vertical distance between the two lines.

Net Beneficial Effects Of Exercise Over Time on Arthritis

And if you walk too long, the net effect can actually become negative or harmful.

More Exercise Is Not Better... But More Often May Be

Bodybuilding legend and 8-time Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney, is famously quoted as saying “stimulate, don't annihilate”.

He was originally referring to muscles, but the same logic applies with respect to your cartilage.

You want to do just enough exercise to maximize the beneficial effects while minimizing the negative effects.

And you can do this by breaking down your total walking time for the day into 2-3 sessions.

Not only will you likely have less pain, but you’ll also have 2-3 times more loading sessions, which may accelerate your gain.

The beneficial effects of walking on arthritis pain happen pretty quickly.

It may be as little as 10 minutes.

Think about the case of someone who has knee stiffness in the morning or after sitting for a while. After they get moving for a few minutes, they usually feel better.

If you get the minimum amount of exercise 2-3 times per day, you get the beneficial effects 14-21 times per week as opposed to just 7 times per week.

More frequent walking may be better for arthritis pain

Now that doesn’t mean you can only walk 10-15 minutes at a time.

But you shouldn’t walk to the point where you start having pain.

If you want to walk for 60 minutes per day, it may be better to do two 30-minute walks or three 20-minute walks.

That's provided you can walk 20-30 minutes without pain.

What If Walking Even 10-15 minutes Causes Bad Arthritis Pain?

Cartilage is stimulated by repetitive, low-load exercise, but that exercise doesn’t necessarily have to be walking.

So you can do other forms of exercise such as water aerobics or exercise biking.

A Stationary Bike Can Be A Good Alternative To Walking For Knees Arthritis

Again, doing 2-3 shorter sessions per day is probably more beneficial than one longer session.

Furthermore, HOW you walk makes a big difference in the pain levels that you experience when you’re walking.

If you live in the St. Louis area and you'd like help to learn how to walk longer with less knee arthritis pain, we'd be happy to help you here at More 4 Life.

Just tap the button below to request an appointment with one of our specialist physical therapists.

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