Diet and Exercise Protect Against Knee Pain

Knee pain, often caused by osteoarthritis[1], is the most common type of type of chronic lower body pain among middle-aged and older adults, causing more disability than any other chronic condition in this age range. But according to recent research out of the University of Delaware, an intensive program of regular exercise and a healthy diet can protect against knee pain in overweight adults with Type 2 diabetes[2] over the short term.


Obesity and old age are two major risk factors for knee osteoarthritis. To determine whether weight loss brought about by an improvement in diet and increase in physical activity could help prevent knee pain in at-risk individuals, researchers looked at 2,289 obese people with Type 2 diabetes. The participants reported no knee pain at the start of the study but were at high risk of developing the condition due to their weight.

Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either intensive lifestyle intervention or standard diabetes support and education. Those in the lifestyle intervention group were instructed to follow the dietary guidelines set by the American Diabetes Association — which limits total calories from fat to 30% and includes at least 10% of calories from protein — and advised to gradually progress to exercising 175 minutes each week through activities such as moderate-intensity walking.

At one year, the researchers found that those in the intensive lifestyle program were 15% less likely to develop knee pain than those in the control group, representing a small but statistically significant protective effect against knee pain over the short term. At the four-year mark, this protective effect was no longer statistically significant, possibly due to participants no longer following the lifestyle program.

“These findings are very important,” notes lead researcher Daniel White, PT, ScD, MSc. “They demonstrate that the recommendations to exercise and diet do make a difference for preventing the development of knee pain among those who are at high risk.”

For more information, read the article “Preventing knee pain in at-risk adults with diabetes”[3] or see the study’s abstract[4] in the journal Arthritis Care & Research. And for more information about reducing pain, see the article “Managing Chronic Pain,”[5] by nurse David Spero, or our sister site Pain-Free Living[6].

If you live in the Omaha area, you’ll want to check out the upcoming “Taking Control of Your Diabetes” health fair for people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Bookmark[7] and tune in tomorrow to learn more!

  1. osteoarthritis:
  2. Type 2 diabetes:
  3. “Preventing knee pain in at-risk adults with diabetes”:
  4. study’s abstract:;jsessionid=85A46B090816653C311E2E65FEC9436E.f01t03
  5. “Managing Chronic Pain,”:
  6. Pain-Free Living:

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Diane Fennell: Diane Fennell has been an editor at Diabetes Self-Management magazine since 2003. She is currently the Senior Digital Editor for Diabetes Self-Management E-News and (Diane Fennell is not a medical professional.)

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