Aquatic therapy may promote cartilage health and improve physical fitness among postmenopausal women with mild knee osteoarthritis, according to a new study.

The study, performed in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, looked at the efficacy of aquatic resistance training on the tibiofemoral cartilage quality, cardiovascular fitness and osteoarthritis-related pain in postmenopausal women with mild knee osteoarthritis.

The study, published recently in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, included 87 postmenopausal women (age 60 to 68) with knee pain and radiographically confirmed osteoarthritis-related changes in the knee joint, who were then assigned to either a training group or a control group, according to a media release from Suomen Akatemia (Academy of Finland).

Those assigned to the training group completed 1 hour of intensive aquatic lower limb resistance exercises three times per week for 4 months. Those in the control group maintained their usual care and were asked to continue their usual leisure time activities.

The effect of aquatic resistance training on the biochemical composition of knee cartilage was measured by T2 relaxation time and dGEMRIC index, a MRI method specifically designed for the purpose, the release explains.

The study’s results suggest that high-intensity aquatic resistance training sufficient to cause improvements in cardiovascular fitness produced a sufficient stimulus to improve collagen orientation and decrease hydration in articular cartilage, the release continues.

“Osteoarthritis-related knee pain commonly results in the avoidance of high-intensity physical activities which are required to maintain cartilage health and cardiovascular fitness. Aquatic resistance training at high intensities is a safe and well tolerated exercise modality and produces a sufficient stimulus promoting cartilage health and cardiovascular fitness,” say doctoral students, physiotherapists Matti Munukka and Benjamin Waller, the study’s lead authors, in the release.

The study’s clinical significance, they add in the release, is that high repetitions of low-impact aquatic resistance exercises can improve cartilage health and quality while increasing cardiovascular fitness.

[Source(s): Suomen Akatemia (Academy of Finland), Science Daily]