To propose a standardized model for exercise-induced cartilage turnover and investigate residual levels and dynamics of biomarker serum ARGS (sARGS) in primary osteoarthritis (OA) patients and a supportive group of young healthy subjects.

The trial is a randomized, cross-over, exploratory study with interventions of exercise and inactivity. 20 subjects with knee OA, as well as 20 young healthy subjects (mean age 25.7 years (range; 19–30), 50% male), underwent cycling, running and resting interventions on separate days one week apart. Blood samples were taken at baseline, immediately, 1, 2, 3 and 24 h after activity start. sARGS was measured by sandwich ELISA.

Intraclass correlation between visits were 0.97 and 0.77 for the OA and healthy group, respectively. An acute drop in sARGS in response to high-intensity exercise was observed in both groups. Minute acute sARGS increase was observed in OA subjects in response to moderate intensity running and cycling, which normalized within 24 h. In healthy subjects an acute drop in sARGS was seen immediately after running, but not cycling, and no other changes were observed. A negative correlation between baseline Kellgren-Lawrence (KL) grade and baseline sARGS (r = −0.69, p = 0.002) in OA was found. A negative correlation between age and sARGS was found in healthy subjects (r = −0.67, p = <0.002).

sARGS sensitivity to physical activity is considered low and sARGS is a reproducible and stable marker. Minute acute increases in sARGS were observed in the hours following moderate intensity exercise.