Physical inactivity and knee osteoarthritis in guinea pigs

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Osteoarthritis and Cartilage








Exercise; Obesity; Osteoarthritis prevention; Physical activity; Sedentism


Objective: To investigate whether and how a sedentary lifestyle contributes to knee osteoarthritis (OA) incidence and severity. Design: An experiment was conducted using Hartley guinea pigs, an established idiopathic knee OA model. To simulate a sedentary lifestyle, growing animals (n = 18) were housed for 22 weeks in small cages that restricted their mobility, while another group of animals (n = 17) received daily treadmill exercise to simulate moderate physical activity. After the experiment, histological assessments, biochemical assays, and mechanical testing were conducted to compare tibial articular cartilage structure, strength, and degree of OA degeneration between sedentary and physically active animals. Groups were also compared based on body weight and composition, as well as gut microbial community composition assessed using fecal 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Results: Prevalence of knee OA was similar between sedentary and physically active animals, but severity of the disease (cartilage lesion depth) was substantially greater in the sedentary group (P = 0.02). In addition, during the experiment, sedentary animals developed cartilage with lower aggrecan quantity (P = 0.03) and accumulated more body weight (P = 0.005) and visceral adiposity (P = 0.007). Groups did not differ greatly, however, in terms of cartilage thickness, collagen quantity, or stiffness, nor in terms of muscle weight, subcutaneous adiposity, or gut microbial community composition. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that a sedentary lifestyle promotes the development of knee OA, particularly by enhancing disease severity rather than risk of onset, and this potentially occurs through multiple pathways including by engendering growth of functionally deficient joint tissues and the accumulation of excess body weight and adiposity.