The good news is that even a little activity each week can be beneficial. Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago have found that just 45 minutes of exercise a week can benefit older adults with arthritis.
How was the study carried out?
The researchers analyzed the data of 1,629 adults aged 49 and older who were part of a nationwide study looking to identify prevention and treatment strategies for patients with knee OA. Each person’s physical functioning was assessed at the beginning of the study, and then again two years later.
They found that those participants who engaged in regular exercise experienced higher physical function than those who didn’t. However, they didn’t need to meet the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity to see benefits. In fact, moderate activity, such as brisk walking, proved to be the most beneficial.
What does this mean for you?
Arthritis specialists say weight loss is one of the best things people can do for OA—either to prevent or ease it. Exercising on a regular basis assists in weight loss, helps strengthen supporting muscles, tendons and ligaments, and promotes the growth of new cartilage.
The results of this study show that even a brisk walk two or three times a week will make a healthy difference.
Some facts about arthritis
What is arthritis?
The word arthritis means “inflammation of the joint”. Inflammation is the result of the body’s attempt to respond to injury. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, caused by “wear and tear” of cartilage that protects the joints. As the cartilage breaks down, pain, swelling, and joint movement problems may occur.
In a healthy person, cartilage breaks down and then restores itself. In the person with OA, cartilage breaks down much faster than it can be repaired. When cartilage is gone, bone surfaces grate together causing pain. Pain is also felt in the muscles and supporting tissues. Bony spurs grow from the bone edges, leading to changes in the shape of the bone and joint, and synovial fluid increases.
OA affects about 80% of Canadians by the time they reach the age of 75. In the U.S. nearly 21 million people over the age of 45 have OA. It has been estimated that 41 million Americans 65 years and over will have OA by the year 2030.
Is there just one kind of arthritis?
No. Over 100 conditions fall under the heading of “arthritis”. Some forms of arthritis cause only mild distress and may affect just one joint. Others can have a severe effect on the entire body. Some forms of arthritis can result in deformity and disability.
Are the symptoms of arthritis always the same?
Despite what many people believe, the symptoms are not always the same. The disease pattern, the severity of pain and disability, and the site of the symptoms can differ for different forms of arthritis. For example, in gout, one type of arthritis, the main symptom is often sudden, acute pain in the great toe.
Do only old people get arthritis?
Older people are more likely to have arthritis. It is not just a disease of the old, however. Many young adults in the prime of their lives develop arthritis. Some forms of the disease even affect children.
While physical activity can be challenging for many older adults with arthritis, it can help patients better manage their condition and maintain physical functioning. Exercise allows synovial fluid to warm and thin out. This makes it easier for cartilage in the joint to absorb the fluid. As the cartilage absorbs fluid, it swells and acts as a better cushion against friction. Exercise allows cartilage to do its job. Only through exercise can cartilage get rid of waste products and do the job it is supposed to do.