“I look back on the days I averaged only thirty thousand steps, and think, Honestly, how lazy can you get?” David Sedaris wrote in the June 30, 2014, issue of The New Yorker.Do the math Counting steps can keep OA in check

He was joking—sort of—about “Living the Fitbit Life,” although it’s true that everywhere you look people seem to be counting their footsteps and congratulating themselves on reaching new milestones.

And there you are with your knee osteoarthritis figuring you’ll have to sit this one out…again. Well, think again my creaky friend.

A study conducted at Boston University, and published recently in the journal Arthritis Care & Research says that walking helps lower the risk of joint deterioration in people with knee osteoarthritis (KOA).  And furthermore, Fitbit fans, the more steps you take, the more benefits you derive.

The study involved 1,788 people with KOA, whose mean age was 67 (aka “seniors”). All of them were asked to use an accelerometer-based activity monitor (a Fitbit-type device) to measure their steps. “Our study examines if more walking equates with better functioning, and if so, how much daily walking is needed to minimize risk of developing problems with mobility in people with knee OA,” said Daniel White, PT, ScD, who led the research team. Mobility problems include difficulty standing, rising from a seated position, or climbing stairs.

“Do people really need to walk 10,000 steps a day? For people with arthritis, that could be a daunting task,” White told an NPR interviewer.

Instead, he suggests KOA patients aim for a goal of around 6,000 steps per day, building toward it by taking things literally one step at a time. Walk around your home if it’s not convenient for you to walk outdoors. Find ways to add steps to your daily activities:

  • Pace while you’re talking on the phone.
  • Clear the dinner table one dish at a time just so you make more trips to and from the sink.
  • Walk down every aisle of the supermarket, including the pet food and diaper aisles, even if you don’t have a pet or a baby.
  • When you’re watching TV, stand up and walk around the room during commercial breaks.
  • Do chores that keep you on your feet and in motion: Vacuum the house, mow the lawn, rake leaves .

Every step counts. You’ll be surprised by how quickly they add up.

Add 1,000 steps per day and you could reduce your risk of functional deterioration by 16 to 18 percent. At the recommended 6,000 steps per day, you might reduce deterioration by 50 percent.

Stick to a comfortable pace. Speed isn’t as important as the number of steps you take each day.

If you think it will encourage you, buy an accelerator-based activity monitor or download an app for your smartphone that will track your progress.

Everyone’s counting their steps these days. If you’re a person with KOA, this study shows you have more reason than most to follow the trend. Whatever you do, don’t sit this one out!