Weight Training for Lower Knee Osteoarthritis Risk.

An analysis of Osteoarthritis Initiative data has revealed that individuals who incorporated weight lifting and other forms of strength training into their routines were less prone to knee pain and osteoarthritis (OA) as they approached their senior years. Grace Lo, MD, MSc, and her team at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston reported in Arthritis & Rheumatology that the rates of knee pain and both symptomatic and radiographic knee OA were approximately 20% lower among those with a history of strength training compared to those who had never engaged in it.

This study challenges previous misconceptions derived from studies on elite male weightlifters, which had indicated an increased risk of knee OA, potentially discouraging the adoption of strength training. The researchers argued that such findings couldn’t be generalized to the general population because elite athletes’ training differs significantly in terms of load, repetition, and type of loading compared to the average population’s strength training activities. There’s a strong belief that moderate-weight strength training can aid in OA prevention.

To investigate this hypothesis, Lo’s team examined data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative, a program sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and major drug companies, designed to represent the general population. They enrolled community members in the northeastern U.S. in 2004-2006, with participants reporting their history of strength training during different life periods and undergoing periodic examinations and x-ray imaging, primarily at the 8-year mark after enrolling.

Out of 4,796 program participants, 2,607 were included in the study. The majority reported no history of strength training, while some started strength training at age 50 or later. Only a small percentage had consistently engaged in strength training throughout their lives.

The study found that participants with a history of strength training had lower odds of frequent knee pain, radiographic knee OA, and symptomatic knee OA. The protective benefits were even stronger in those who began strength training after age 50. The researchers noted that trends in exercise over the decades may have influenced the results, as strength training has become more popular in recent years.

However, the study had some limitations, including potential unmeasured factors and reliance on participants’ recall of past behaviors. Nevertheless, the findings suggest that the medical community should promote strength training as a proactive measure to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis and other chronic conditions.




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