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.
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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."
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
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