When it comes to knee arthritis pain, losing weight pays big dividends. In fact, losing 10 pounds can eliminate tens of millions of pounds of pressure from your knees every year.

Losing excess weight is one of the best ways to reduce and prevent knee arthritis pain. Read How Effective is Weight Loss for Treating Knee Arthritis Pain?

Why is that important? Less pressure on a knee joint means less potentially damaging friction between the knee joint’s bones. Research suggests degenerative changes to bones cause knee osteoarthritis pain. 1 Felson DT, Chaisson CE, Hill CL, et al. The association of bone marrow lesions with pain in knee osteoarthritis. Ann Intern Med. 2001;134(7):541-9. , 2 Collins JA, Beutel BG, Strauss E, Youm T, Jazrawi L. Bone Marrow Edema: Chronic Bone Marrow Lesions of the Knee and the Association with Osteoarthritis. Bull Hosp Jt Dis (2013). 2016;74(1):24-

See What Is Knee Osteoarthritis?

How 10 lbs makes a big difference to your knees

Experts estimate that for every 1 pound you weigh, your knees feel the force of 3 pounds of pressure when you take a step. 3 D’Lima DD, Fregly BJ, Patil S, Steklov N, Colwell CW. Knee joint forces: prediction, measurement, and significance. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Part H, Journal of Engineering in Medicine. 2012;226(2):95-102. , 4 Messier SP, Gutekunst DJ, Davis C, Devita P. Weight loss reduces knee-joint loads in overweight and obese older adults with knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2005;52(7):2026-32.

1 lb bodyweight = 3 lb of pressure on a knee/step

—So losing 10 pounds will result in 30 pounds less pressure per knee, per step.

Now, think about how many steps you take each day. The average person takes about 5 to 6 thousand steps a day 5 Hoeger W, Bond L, Ransdell L, Shimon JM, Merugu S. One-mile step count at walking and running speeds. ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, 12(1):14-19, January/February 2008. http://www.yamaxx.com/digi/m-magazine/ACSM_Health%26FitnessJournal.pdf. Accessed February 28, 2017. doing things like walking to the bathroom and shopping at the grocery store.

Together, 5 thousand steps and 10 pounds of bodyweight combine to generate 150 thousand pounds of pressure on the knees per day:

(5,000 steps/day) X (30 lb of pressure on the knees/step)
= 150,000 lb of pressure/day

When multiplied by 365 days (one year), that difference grows to 54 million pounds of pressure:

150,000 lb of pressure/day X 365 days = 54,750,000 lb of pressure

In other words, losing 10 pounds can make a difference of nearly 55 million pounds of pressure on your knees each year.

See Knee Exercises for Arthritis

Variabilities in the calculations
Keep in mind that the numbers used in the calculations above are estimates. Experts’ estimates of pressure on the knee per pound of bodyweight vary, ranging from 2:1 to 4:1. The ratio may be influenced by factors such as anatomy, gait, and footwear. In addition, the number of steps you take per day can vary widely.

One thing you can be sure of is that obesity is a significant risk factor for knee osteoarthritis and knee replacement surgery, and that losing weight is often the most effective way to avoid both.

Don’t want to give up eating to lose weight? Many people who switch to a plant-based, whole foods, anti-inflammatory diet from a traditional Western diet report they eat as much as they want and maintain a healthy weight.

See Tips for Losing Weight to Treat Knee Pain

Learn more:

Knee Osteoarthritis Treatment

Knee Osteoarthritis Diagnosis