The Arthritis, Diet, and Activity Promotion Trial (ADAPT) was a randomized, single-blind clinical trial lasting 18 months that was designed to determine whether long-term exercise and dietary weight loss are more effective, either separately or in combination, than usual care in improving physical function, pain, and mobility in older overweight and obese adults with knee osteoarthritis (OA). Three hundred sixteen community-dwelling overweight and obese adults ages 60 years and older, with a body mass index of > or =28 kg/m(2), knee pain, radiographic evidence of knee OA, and self-reported physical disability, were randomized into healthy lifestyle (control), diet only, exercise only, and diet plus exercise groups. The primary outcome was self-reported physical function as measured with the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC). Secondary outcomes included weight loss, 6-minute walk distance, stair-climb time, WOMAC pain and stiffness scores, and joint space width. Of the 316 randomized participants, 252 (80%) completed the study. Adherence was as follows: for healthy lifestyle, 73%; for diet only, 72%; for exercise only, 60%; and for diet plus exercise, 64%. In the diet plus exercise group, significant improvements in self-reported physical function (P < 0.05), 6-minute walk distance (P < 0.05), stair-climb time (P < 0.05), and knee pain (P < 0.05) relative to the healthy lifestyle group were observed. In the exercise group, a significant improvement in the 6-minute walk distance (P < 0.05) was observed. The diet-only group was not significantly different from the healthy lifestyle group for any of the functional or mobility measures. The weight-loss groups lost significantly (P < 0.05) more body weight (for diet, 4.9%; for diet plus exercise, 5.7%) than did the healthy lifestyle group (1.2%). Finally, changes in joint space width were not different between the groups. The combination of modest weight loss plus moderate exercise provides better overall improvements in self-reported measures of function and pain and in performance measures of mobility in older overweight and obese adults with knee OA compared with either intervention alone.