Taking as few as 6,000 steps a day is enough to stop the condition developing or reduce the discomfort it causes.
And increasing the distance patients covered by just 1,000 steps each day produced positive results.
Over a two-year period it was associated with a reduction in their risk of having difficultly moving by nearly a fifth.
Dr Daniel White, lead author of the latest study, said: “Walking is an inexpensive activity and despite the common popular goal of walking 10,000 steps per day, our study finds only 6,000 steps are necessary to realise benefits.
“We encourage those with or at risk of knee osteoarthritis to walk at least 3,000 or more steps each day, and ultimately progress to 6,000 steps daily to minimise the risk of developing difficulty with mobility.”
A healthy adult should be taking more than 10,000 steps a day, the equivalent of three to four miles. Fewer than 5,000 steps is regarded as a “sedentary” lifestyle.
This describes most Britons, who take on average between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day, according to the NHS.
Taking 1,000 steps is equivalent to about 10 minutes of brisk walking.
Previous research has shown that taking an extra 2,000 steps a day over a year cuts the risk of cardiovascular episodes such as heart attacks by eight per cent.
This latest research shows that walking reduces the risk of “functional limitation” caused by knee osteoarthritis.
The study, in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, suggests that walking 6,000 or more steps a day can protect those with or at risk of knee osteoarthritis from developing mobility issues, such as difficulty getting up from a chair or climbing stairs.
[quote_box_right]We encourage those with or at risk of knee osteoarthritis to walk at least 3,000 or more steps each day
Dr. Daniel White, lead author of the latest study[/quote_box_right]
It also found that people need only take 1,000 steps on top of their current daily average to enjoy the benefit, even if they now do no walking at all.
More than eight million Britons are affected by osteoarthritis, which occurs when cartilage at the ends of bones wears away, leading to stiff, painful joints.
There is currently little treatment other than painkillers and joint replacement.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that affects hands, feet, spine, hips and knees.
According to the charity Arthritis Research UK, the NHS spends £5.2billion a year on the condition, including on 77,000 knee and 66,000 hip replacements.
A fifth of people over 45 have osteoarthritis in a knee. Ageing and obesity are the most common contributing factors.
And with both on the rise, the number of people in the UK consulting a GP about knee osteoarthritis could rise from 4.7 million in 2010 to 8.3 million by 2035, according to estimates.
Dr White, from Sargent College at Boston University in Massachusetts, said: “Our study examines if more walking equates with better functioning, and if so, how much daily walking is needed to minimise risk of developing problems with mobility in people with knee osteoarthritis.”
Researchers measured daily steps taken by 1,788 people with or at risk of knee osteoarthritis. Walking was measured with a monitor over seven days.
Movement limitation was evaluated two years later.
The results revealed that walking an extra 1,000 steps each day was associated with between a 16 per cent to 18 per cent reduction in movement limitation.
Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said: “Exercise such as walking is vital for people with osteoarthritis of the knee, as long as they wear sensible trainer-type shoes with soft, thick soles, and pace themselves.
“Many older people enjoy walking but worry it will make their osteoarthritis worse.
“We want to encourage them to keep doing the things they love.”
Read full article here: How to cut arthritis pain: Walking an extra 1,000 steps a day can change your life