I have been diagnosed with Osteoarthritis (OA). Do I need to stop running or participating in sports?
This is a question that we are asked regularly during physical therapy sessions! A recent 2020 meta-analysis by Zampogna et al on of the effects of activity in people with OA concluded that, “compared to controls, aquatic exercise, land-based exercise, tai chi, and yoga showed a small to high effect for improving pain, physical function, quality of life, and stiffness. Active exercise and sport are effective to improve pain and physical function in elderly people with osteoarthritis.”
Furthermore, a 2018 study by Lo et al. in The Journal of Clinical Rheumatology concluded that, “among individuals over 50 years old with knee OA, self-selected running is associated with improved knee pain and not with worsening knee pain or radiographically defined structural progression.”
That being said, I recommend avoiding contact sports which have a higher risk of orthopedic injury, such as tackle football and rugby. I also recommend a well-rounded exercise program which incorporates mobility, balance and strengthening exercises into your regular routine.
When progressing activity, it’s a good idea to gradually increase intensity or duration of activities by no more than 10% per week. For example, if you normally run for 20 minutes on the treadmill at 7 mph and you want to progress this activity, you can either increase the time to 22 minutes or increase the speed to 7.1 mph.
If you are limited in your daily life and recreational activities due to pain, stiffness or weakness then consider making an appointment with a physical therapist to help you get moving again!