When your knees hurt, your first impulse may be to stay off of them. But a new study of golfers shows that’s exactly the wrong strategy.
Researchers found that golfers with knee osteoarthritis are actually better off walking the course than taking a cart.
A study at Northwestern University looked at older golfers. Some had had knee osteoarthritis and some did not.
On one day, the participants played 18 holes of golf, walking the course.
On another day, they used a golf cart to play 18 holes.
On both days, the researchers took blood samples to measure markers of knee inflammation and cartilage stress. The golfers also reported their pain levels on a scale of 1-10 before and after golfing.
You might think that people with gimpy knees would be in considerable after walking 18 holes. After all, it requires being on your feet for about four hours.
But the scientists discovered that when the arthritis sufferers walked the course they had no measurable increase in pain or inflammation
Dr. Prakash Jayabalan is an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He led the study.
“This study has shown that golfers with knee osteoarthritis do not need to be concerned about worsening their disease through walking the course,” he said.i
What’s more, the study found that walking the course improved markers of heart health.
The walkers kept their heart rate in the moderate-intensity zone for more than 60% of the time they were golfing. Players riding in a cart achieved that level only 30% of the time.
“Walking provides the best health benefit,” said Dr. Jayabalan. “Bottom line: walking the course is significantly better than using a golf cart.”ii
The study was presented recently at the Osteoarthritis Research Society International annual meeting in Liverpool, England.
Exercise Eases Osteoarthritis Pain
For years, doctors told osteoarthritis patients to rest their painful joints. Recent research shows that’s bad advice.
Multiple studies have shown that mild to moderate exercise is the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving joint movement.iii
Gentle stretching, yoga, or Pilates all help keep an affected joint flexible and less painful.
Low-impact exercise like walking, swimming, and bicycling can help weight loss. This means less stress on joints. And strength training increases the support muscles give to joints.
5 Exercises that Fight Knee Pain
Here are five simple exercises that can reduce knee pain:iv
- Straight Leg Raises. Lie on your back on the floor or another flat surface. Bend one knee and place your foot flat on the floor. Keeping the other leg straight, raise it to the height of the opposite knee. Repeat 10-15 times for three sets.
- Hamstring Curls. Lie flat on your stomach. Slowly bring your heels as close to your butt as you can, and hold that position for five seconds. Do three sets of 15. You can also do this exercise standing while you hold onto a chair and lift one leg behind you at a time. To increase resistance, add ankle weights.
- Calf Raises. Stand facing the back of a sturdy chair. Slowly raise your heels as high as you can, then lower. Do three sets of 10-15. When it becomes easy, raise one foot slightly off the floor and do the exercise while standing on one leg.
- Step-Ups. Place your right foot on a step bench, platform, or the lowest step on a staircase. Bring your left foot up to your right so you’re standing on the step. Return to the starting position by stepping down with your right foot, and then the left so both feet are back on the floor. Repeat 10-15 times. Then repeat another 10-15 times leading with your left foot.v
- Wall Squats. Stand with your back against a wall, your feet about shoulder-width apart. Slowly bend your knees. Keep your back and pelvis against the wall. Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel with the floor, but don’t go further if you feel discomfort in your knees. Hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.
When doing any exercise, don’t try to power through severe pain. Mild muscle soreness is normal. But shooting or sudden joint pain means you should stop and consult your doctor.
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