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Home Health Education Living With Joint Pain
The Benefits of Exercise: Helping Arthritis Patients Retain More Independence Print E-mail

The benefits of exercise can include easing the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis. But did you know that it also has the potential to slow progression of arthritis? According to researchers at Wake Forest University, an exercise fitness program can help people with osteoarthritis remain more independent in their daily activities, like getting out of bed, tying their shoes, and getting dressed.

"Prior to the study, our participants were afraid of falling and experiencing more pain as a result of their exercise, but actually the opposite proved to be true," said Brenda Penninx, Ph.D., assistant professor of internal medicine, gerontology and geriatric medicine at the Sticht Center on Aging at Wake Forest University. Penninx and her colleagues gathered 250 participants age 60 and older for their study. At the onset, all of them could perform normal daily activities, despite osteoarthritis of the knee. This disease affects more than 80 percent of all people by the time they reach 70.

Participants were divided into three groups.

  • One group started a walking regimen for one hour a day, three days a week.
  • The second group took up weight training three times a week.
  • The third group did nothing.

The Archives of Internal Medicine (October 22, 2001) reported that at the end of the 18-month study period, 53 percent of the non-exercisers had lost some or all of their abilities to perform daily tasks like getting out of bed, bathing, using the toilet and dressing. Of the group that exercised, only 37 percent reported reduced functional ability, with the majority maintaining their independence. Both of the exercise fitness programs, walking and weight training seemed to be equally successful, according to the study.

According to Penninx, an exercise fitness program can increase your strength, which in turn helps prevent falls, pain, and other forms of disability. "Many people are afraid their pain will flare up when they exercise, but in the long run they'll be better off," she said. "Initially, they may experience some pain, but in the long term, exercise has a positive effect on their pain and level of disability," Penninx said.

"You don't have to be a healthy person to start an exercise fitness program," Penninx said. "The key is in finding something that you enjoy doing, because you'll be more likely to continue it on a regular basis," she added.

An alternative to exercising at home is joining a group exercise fitness program, which can be a strong motivator for many people. Most malls have walking groups, as well as hospitals and YMCAs. In addition to having many proven health benefits, group exercise is beneficial for your mental and social health as well. Before starting an exercise fitness program, consult with your doctor, who can help you develop a plan that fits your arthritis treatment plan


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