Updated 18 December 2015

Arthritis patients need to exercise more

Although being physically active is one of the best ways people with osteoarthritis can alleviate pain and improve their ability to get around, a new study shows that people with the joint disease are much more sedentary than previously thought.


Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that more than half of women and 40% of men with knee osteoarthritis are basically "couch potatoes," and not engaging in the physical activity that is vital to their health.

Using a small device called an accelerometer, researchers measured the physical activity of more than 1,000 people aged 49 to 84 with radiographic knee osteoarthritis for one week.

Although federal guidelines recommend that adults with arthritis participate in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, low-impact activity each week (about 20 minutes per day), the study revealed that fewer than one in seven men, and only one in 12 women actually met those guidelines.

Exercise is good for arthritis patients

Meanwhile, 40.1% of men and 56.5% of women did not sustain 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity over the course of the week, and were therefore deemed "inactive".

These levels of physical activity were significantly lower than what had been reported in previous studies that relied on participants' self-reported accounts of exercise and activity.

"We had assumed that people might be overstating physical activity in past self-reported data, but were surprised to find that the physical activity rates were much, much lower than what was previously reported," study author Dorothy Dunlop, an associate professor of medicine at Feinberg, said.

Dunlop said the findings, published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, should be a "wake-up call" for doctors.

"Even though they have joint disease, patients need to be reminded that physical activity is actually good for them," Dunlop added. "People with arthritis should be as physically active as possible, even if they accomplish less than the recommended levels. When it comes to physical activity, there is good evidence that the benefits far outweigh the risks and being inactive is especially detrimental to health."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on arthritis and physical activity.

SOURCE: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, news release, Aug. 10, 2011  

(Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)

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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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