Exercise is crucial for individuals suffering from arthritis pain, but patients may find it difficult to stay physically active when joints feel stiff or sore. The current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults age 65 and over engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. However, only 10 percent of American adults with knee osteoarthritis meet these guidelines.
A new study published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research found that arthritis patients can experience significant relief from their symptoms even if they are not able to exercise for long periods of time. Dorothy Dunlop, professor of rheumatology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and colleagues examined data from 1,629 adults with pain, aching or stiffness in the hips, knees or feet. All subjects were age 49 and older and were part of the Osteoarthritis Initiative, a nationwide research study that aims to prevent and treat knee osteoarthritis.
The researchers assessed the physical function of each study participant at baseline and again after two years through self-reported outcomes. Approximately one third of participants managed to improve or maintain physical function at the two year follow-up.
Subjects who exercised regularly had the best outcomes, even if they did not meet the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. Surprisingly, researchers found that study subjects who exercised as little as 45 minutes per week were 80 percent more likely to improve their physical function than subjects who exercised less than 45 minutes per week.
While subjects who exercised more than 45 minutes per week saw greater results, Dunlop hopes these findings will encourage arthritis patients to make any amount of physical activity a priority, even if it’s only for a few minutes each day.
“We found the most effective type of activity to maintain or improve your function 2 years later was moderate activity, and it did not need to be done in sessions lasting 10 minutes or more, as recommended by federal guidelines,” Dunlop explained. “Even a little activity is better than none. For those older people suffering from arthritis who are minimally active, a 45-minute minimum might feel more realistic,” (Source: Medical News Today).