Fight Knee Arthritis With 6,000 Steps a Day

See why lacing up those sneakers and walking is actually good for arthritis in the knee.

Two people hike along a path with flowers, exercising and walking to help their knee arthritis.

Medically reviewed in August 2021

What’s so special about that number? Research suggests that 6,000 steps each day of walking is good for arthritis in the knee—helping people fend off pain and stay active. 

Nearly 80 percent of  people with knee arthritis have trouble using stairs, walking or standing. For about 11 percent of people, those problems become disabling. 

To study how well walking helps with knee arthritis by preventing disability, researchers gave activity monitors to almost 1,800 people who had knee arthritis or were at risk for developing the condition. The people recorded their daily steps for a week, and then the researchers assessed them two years later. The study was published in 2014 in the journal Arthritis Care & Research

It turned out that roughly 6,000 steps per day was the best dividing line between those who developed disabilities because of their knee pain and those who didn’t. But the benefits of walking didn’t stop at that number. For every 1,000 steps people walked, knee problems decreased by an additional 16 to 18 percent. 

Walking more increases the strength and flexibility of your muscles, thus improving mobility. The added benefits of walking also make it the perfect exercise for people with osteoarthritis, since it’s a gentle workout for those with existing pain and it helps ward off weight gain, which can affect joints. Plus, it’s an extremely easy exercise to start, as you already know how to do it. And with a good pair of shoes, it’s practically free. 

But you may be wondering: How much walking is 6,000 steps? If you walk 100 steps per minute (an average speed for most people), then you’ll get 6,000 steps in an hour of walking. Just starting to get into an exercise routine? Try starting slow by setting a 3,000-step goal and working towards more. Remember, you don’t have to do all those steps at once. All the walking you do in a day counts, and it can add up faster than you think.

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