No Exercise, No Good for Arthritis

Arthritis patients are highly unlikely to exercise during leisure time

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Exercise is one of the easiest ways to treat disease and stay healthy overall. While more Americans are getting physically active on their spare time, one group that really needs exercise is barely moving.

People with arthritis are highly unlikely to exercise in their leisure time.

In order to boost the number of Americans who are exercising during leisure time, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend initiatives that promote physical activity that is safe and effective for arthritis patients.

"Exercise during your free time."

For a recent CDC report, Jennifer M. Hootman, Ph.D., from the Division of Adult and Community Health at the CDC, and her fellow researchers analyzed state-by-state rates of no leisure-time physical activity among people with and without arthritis. In other words, they looked at how many arthritis patients were not exercising in their spare time.

An estimated 50 million American adults have arthritis, a disease that causes joint pain and swelling. Despite the known benefits of exercise for arthritis, the majority of arthritis patients are not physically active.

This lack of physical activity may be due to pain or a fear of worsening symptoms, the researchers say.

"There are many factors why people with arthritis may not exercise during their leisure time," says Diane Shiao, PT, MSPT, DPT, who was not involved in the study. "Depending on the severity of impairment, pain, immobility, fear, and depression can all be hindering factors. Many people may not know where to begin when it comes to exercise, requiring guidance and motivation."

Exercise has been shown to reduce pain and improve function in arthritis patients. Nonetheless, people with arthritis are 53 percent less likely to exercise than those without arthritis, according to the report.

The findings show that this lack of exercise among arthritis patients is a problem in every US state and the District of Columbia.

In the last two and a half decades, the number of Americans who get no leisure-time exercise has dropped. In 1989, 31 percent of US residents got no exercise during their leisure time. By 2002, that number decreased to 25 percent.

According to Dr. Hootman and colleagues, any further improvements in rates of leisure-time physical activity could be hindered by populations that have high rates of inactivity, specifically people with arthritis.

In order to keep rates of leisure-time exercise on the rise, "physical activity promotion initiatives should include interventions such as targeted health communication campaigns and community-based group exercise programs proven safe and effective for adults with arthritis," the authors recommend.

"When in doubt, walking at a moderate pace for at least twenty minutes collectively a day, is the best way to go," Shiao says. "The other option, for more specific training and education, is to consult a physical therapist who can easily formulate a personalized exercise program to your needs."

For their study, Dr. Hootman and colleagues analyzed data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a random-digit–dialed landline telephone survey of people 18 years of age and older from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the US territories.

The full results of this analysis are published in the December 9 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by the CDC. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 22, 2011
Last Updated:
January 5, 2012