When Alma volunteered to take part in Arthritis Research UK’s clinical trial to reduce knee pain in the overweight by diet and/or exercise in 2005, she weighed in at almost 17 stone. Always a big woman who enjoyed her food, she’d piled on the pounds after giving birth to her second child and never really lost them.
Unsurprisingly, her knees were causing pain – to the point where she could no longer sleep through the night. So when Alma, aged 77, was randomised to the diet arm of the trial, she was more than happy.
Those on the dietary arm of the trial were encouraged to eat a low-fat diet, reducing calorie intake by about 500 calories a day, with the aim of losing weight slowly – and maintaining the loss.‘I realised I was carrying too much weight and I was very sedentary, and it wasn’t helping my knees.’
Participants were visited every month for the first six months and then every other month by a dietician.
‘I realised I was carrying too much weight and I was very sedentary, especially in the winter time, and it wasn’t helping my knees,’ says Alma. She embarked on her diet of skimmed milk, low-fat margarine, no sweets and no chocolate with enthusiasm. By the time she finished the trial she’d lost almost 3 stone and felt considerably better for it.
‘I started swimming three times a week and became a lot stronger,’ she adds. ‘It took a long time, but eventually I realised I wasn’t waking up in the night rubbing my knees – I could sleep all night.’
After the trial
At the end of the trial Alma didn’t go back to full-cream milk or hard fats and still eats a reasonably low-fat diet, although she admits that some of her weight has crept back on. She’s also maintained her swimming regime.
‘The trial has made me more aware of the importance of keeping my weight down and doing exercises,’ she says. ‘I’m very pleased that I was involved. I recently moved house, and I wouldn’t have been able to go up and down the stairs so often without the help of the trial. The best thing, though, is being able to sleep all night without waking up!’
Arthritis Research UK’s clinical trial in Nottingham to examine the effects of weight loss and exercise on knee pain has shown that both can be helpful, although those people in the combined exercise and weight loss groups did best. Read about our clinical trial in Nottingham in Arthritis Today.