Osteoarthritis is one of those conditions that, if you live long enough, you'll likely develop to some degree. Occurring when the joint cartilage breaks down, it results from wear and tear and usually hits during middle age or afterward. The knees are particularly vulnerable to osteoarthritis because they bear so much of your body weight. In fact, researchers say that almost half of all people will develop osteoarthritis of the knee by age 85. But there are ways you can prevent or at least slow the progression of any osteoarthritis that may be developing. To keep your knees in good shape as long as possible, consider these tips:

  • Lose extra weight. This is one of experts' top recommendations for protecting your knees from osteoarthritis. Being overweight or obese puts tremendous pressure on your knees. According to Johns Hopkins University, knee osteoarthritis is four to five times more common in obese people than people of normal weight. The good news? A study of overweight women with osteoarthritis showed that a loss of just 11 pounds reduced their risk of knee osteoarthritis by 50 percent.
  • Engage in regular exercise. This is important if you're trying to shed pounds in order to prevent osteoarthritis of the knee, but it's good advice no matter what your weight. Regular physical activity prevents osteoarthritis by keeping the joint-supporting muscles around your knees strong, maintaining bone strength, and keeping your knees mobile and flexible. When you work out, your cartilage stays lubricated, which reduces stiffness and pain.
  • Vary your exercise routine. Doing the same workout day after day isn't a good idea for anyone, and it's especially important to rest your joints in order to avoid developing osteoarthritis from repetitive stress. If you run one day, you might switch to swimming or weight training the next day. New activities should be approached slowly-no weekend warrior machismo here-and attention paid to any pain in the knee or anywhere else. And pay attention to safety--knee injuries are a common cause of osteoarthritis. Depending on what your sport is, make sure you equip yourself with knee pads or long pants for protection.
  • Pay attention to posture. Poor posture can put extra strain on your joints, which can lead to the development of osteoarthritis.
  • Don't squat or cycle for too long. A recent study from Tehran Medical University in Iran revealed that people who spend more than half an hour each day in a squatting position-such as certain manual laborers-were one and a half times more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the knee. Cyclists who rode for at least the same amount of time daily were twice as likely to be afflicted than non-squatters or -cyclists.



St. John Providence Health System, www.stjohnprovidence.org; Dahaghin S, Tehrani-Banihashemi SA, Faezi ST, Jamshidi AR, Davatchi F (2009). Squatting, Sitting on the Floor, or Cycling: Are Life-Long Daily Activities Risk Factors for Clinical Knee Osteoarthritis? Stage III Results of a Community-Based Study. Arthritis Rheumatism, October 15, 2009, 61(10), 1337-1342; Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, www.hopkins-arthritis.org.