Some patients with the condition, which causes stiff, painful joints, avoid exercise for fear of damaging cartilage, despite it being one of the key treatments prescribed.
A researcher at the University of Aberdeen reviewed 21 previous studies conducted around the world and involving more than 1,800 participants, and concluded that therapeutic exercise does not increase knee joint inflammation.
Alessio Bricca of the university’s Institute of Medical Sciences said: “The belief that exercise is harmful for cartilage is based on misinformation and the current discord between evidence and persistent beliefs highlights the need for better education.
“People with knee osteoarthritis must be reassured that therapeutic exercise prescribed to prevent or treat symptomatic knee osteoarthritis is safe and, if anything, could improve cartilage composition.
“Instead of rest and activity avoidance, people with knee osteoarthritis should be encouraged, reassured and supported to engage with exercise and physical activity, which is essential for good joint and general health.”
The findings have been published in the British Medical Journal and the journals Arthritis Care and Research and Osteoarthritis and Cartilage.