Short walks combined with a glucosamine supplement have been shown to improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, a painful condition that affects the joints.
Researchers found that patients who walked for at least two bouts of 1500 steps each (approximately a 15-miute walk) on three days of the week reported significantly less arthritis pain, and significantly improved physical function.
Although gentle exercise and glucosamine sulphate supplements have both been shown to help with osteoarthritis before, the study is the first to measure their combined benefit.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage that protects the bone wears away.
The trial was carried out in 36 osteoarthritis patients (aged 42-73 years). All patients received a dietary supplement of glucosamine sulphate for six weeks, after which they continued to take the supplement during a 12-week progressive walking program.
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance produced from glucose, and is used in the maintenance and regeneration of healthy cartilage in joints. Glucosamine supplements are usually made from shellfish shells.
Seventeen patients were randomly assigned to walk five days per week, while the remaining 19 were instructed to walk three days a week.
The team found that both groups achieved significant improvement in their symptoms, however being encouraged to walk five days a week was not more effective than being encouraged to walk three days.
"These findings are not surprising given that the three-day and five-day walking groups did not differ significantly in the mean number of days actually walked per week, the mean number of daily steps walked, nor their weekly minutes of physical activity," one of the researchers said.
By the end of six months some patients reported that both their levels of pain and stiffness had halved, and many of the men and women also felt less depressed and anxious.
"There is no known cure for osteoarthritis. The goal of treatment, therefore, is to help reduce patients' pain, prevent reductions in their mobility and maintain or increase their joint mobility.
"Although some individuals with osteoarthritis are using both glucosamine and exercise to relieve symptoms, no study has examined the effectiveness of the combined effects on relieving symptoms.
"Although this study included a small sample, the findings provide preliminary evidence that osteoarthritis sufferers can obtain health-related benefits from the combination of glucosamine and walking.
"Walking 3,000 steps per day for exercise, in bouts of at least 1,500 steps each, on at least three days per week provided these benefits." explained one of the researchers.
Research Paper Details:
Ng NTG, Heesch KC, Brown WJ. Efficacy of a progressive walking program and glucosamine sulphate supplementation on osteoarthritic symptoms of the hip and knee: a feasibility trial. Arthritis Research & Therapy, 2010; 12 (1): R25.