You’ve heard that walking 10,000 steps is the best thing you can do for your health. But when you have sore knees, walking five miles may seem impossible.

The good news is that as few as 1,000 steps every day helps maintain mobility in your knees.

According to a study of 1,788 people with an average age of 67 years and a body mass index considered obese, walking just 1,000 steps each day made a difference. The daily exercise lowered the risk of loss of mobility by 16 to 18 percent——even when they were at risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knee.

A similar study showed walking a minimum of 3,000 steps can postpone the risk for nearly 2 years.

But the key to a long and active life may be walking 6,000 steps every day. For most people, that’s just over two miles.

This daily routine seems to be the best way to avoid the loss of movement caused by osteoarthritis of the knee.

What is knee osteoarthritis?

It’s a type of progressive arthritis that causes inflammation, stiffness, and pain in the knee joint.

A sore knee can affect your ability to move and have a negative impact on the quality of your life. The most basic activities of life, like getting out of a chair, getting out of a car, or walking up steps becomes painful and difficult.

When you have osteoarthritis in your knee, it hurts. Having a regular walking plan can help you counteract the painful effects by:

  • Strengthening the muscles surrounding and supporting your knee joint
  • Increasing circulation to the joint, which delivers more nutrients and oxygen-rich blood to your knee

As your leg muscles take more of the load associated with each step and your circulatory system floods the joint with the food and oxygen it needs for health, you may experience:

  • Decreased joint pain
  • Increased flexibility

The best way to document your progress is to keep a journal. Each day note the number of steps you take and how your knee feels. After a few weeks, you’ll be able to look back and see the changes in your fitness and your pain levels.

Count your steps with a pedometer or a Fitbit.

A pedometer counts the number of times your body swings from side to side with each step. These subtle movements can be picked up by a mechanical or an electronic device worn on your belt or your wrist. Many smartphones also can connect to fitness apps that track your steps or your distance.

Wearing a pedometer during the day helps track the steps you take during your daily living activities. The steps you take when walking from the kitchen to the living room count as part of your daily total.

When people use pedometers, they usually take more steps. The constant tally often motivates people to walk more.

No matter which type of device you use, it can measure your performance and meet your daily goals.

Start slow

If you are not active, it is best to start your walking program slowly and build up to 6,000 steps. Start by adding 500 steps to your daily routine.

Once you can handle 500 steps easily, add another 500 every few days until you work your way up to 6,000.

Before you start an exercise program, talk to your health care provider to make sure you are healthy enough to walk.

Is there a simple way to measure my steps if I don’t have a Fitbit or a pedometer?

Without a pedometer, it may be harder to remember to count the steps you take in your house as you do the dishes, load the washing machine, or vacuum. But if you take walks around your neighborhood you can estimate the number of steps based on the distance you walked.

Here are some averages you can use.

The number of steps per mile varies based on gender, height, and speed. For instance, a five-foot-tall woman walking three miles-per-hour averages approximately 2,300 steps per mile. A six-foot-tall woman walking at the same rate racks up 2,000 steps a mile.

Those averages can help you calculate the number of steps you take.

If you’re walking in the city, you can also count blocks. There are approximately 10 city blocks in a mile. So, using the numbers above each block would count as 200 or 230 steps depending on the height of the person walking.

Every step counts

The more you walk now, the better you will move in the future.

Every 1,000 steps you add to your day can help you stay active.

Talk to your primary care provider or orthopedic specialist about a walking program.

If you experience severe knee pain or pain that makes your daily chores impossible, it may be time to call an orthopedic specialist.