When deterioration of the knee’s bone and cartilage is severe, knee-replacement surgery may be in order. But if you’ve been diagnosed with osteoarthritis or you’re hoping to reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis, it’s important to know about the effect your body weight can have on your knee joint.

By the Numbers

According to research published in 20011, when you walk on level ground, the force on your knees is equal to 1 1/2 times your body weight. For example, a 200-pound man puts 300 pounds of pressure on his knees with every step. When you go up or down stairs, the pressure is three to four times your body weight.

One study2 of overweight and obese adults with knee osteoarthritis found that losing one pound of weight resulted in four pounds of pressure being removed from the knees. A loss of 15 pounds would eliminate 60 pounds of pressure from the knee joint.

The Ten Percent Difference

By losing weight, you’re likely to feel an improvement in your knees. In a 20133 study, overweight and obese participants who lost just 10 percent of their total weight had less knee pain and faster walking speed after the weight loss.

Diet Plus Exercise

Participants in the study who lost 10 percent of their body weight through a combination of diet and exercise experienced the greatest reduction in pain. Participants who lost the weight through exercise alone reported less of a reduction in pain than did the diet-and-exercise group.

The Takeaway

If you have osteoarthritis and want to reduce your pain and increase your walking speed, try taking off 10 percent of your body weight through a combination of diet and exercise. Be sure to talk with your doctor first about what exercise and diet plans will work best for you.


1 G. McGinty et al., 2000, Clinical Biomechanics 15
2 Stephen P. Messier, PhD, July 2005, Arthritis & Rheumatism
3 Stephen P. Messier, PhD and Patience White, MD, September, 25, 2013, Journal of the American Medical Association