Boosting Activity for Arthritis

Arthritis patients need to exercise more often

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

(RxWiki News) Exercise is a crucial part of staying healthy for any human being. Physical activity is especially important for arthritis patients trying to reduce pain.

Doctors should be required to ask arthritis patients at every visit how much they exercise, according to a new report from the Arthritis Foundation.

"Stay active to reduce arthritis pain."

About 22 percent of Americans suffer from arthritis. Many of these patients are obese, a condition that can make arthritis worse. Almost half of adults with arthritis have at least one other chronic health problem, such as heart disease, lung conditions and diabetes.

Regular physical activity can treat and reduce the risk of all of these health problems.

According to the authors of the report, "Physical activity has many benefits for the general population but, in particular for the management of arthritis, it decreases pain, delays the onset of disability, improves physical functioning and independence, and enhances quality of life, aerobic capacity, and muscle strength."

In order to gain the benefits of physical activity, arthritis patients need only exercise at least two and a half hours per week. Preferably, this amount of exercise should be spread throughout the week in episodes lasting at least 10 minutes.

Unfortunately, many arthritis patients do not get the exercise they need.

The recent Arthritis Foundation report stresses the importance of exercise for arthritis patients. On top of its recommendations to doctors and other healthcare professionals, the report examines how transportation agencies, business and industry, parks and recreation agencies and mass media can help arthritis patients become more physically active.

"Health care systems should require licensed health care professionals to ask arthritis patients about physical activity levels at every visit, screen for arthritis-specific barriers to physical activity, encourage physical activity, and recommend evidence-based community interventions or rehabilitation therapies when appropriate," the authors write.

Transportation systems, land use and community design also can play a role in encouraging a more active lifestyle.

According to the National Physical Activity Plan, "People can lead healthier, more active lives if our communities are built to facilitate safe walking and biking and the use of public transportation, all considered forms of active transportation."

The report recommends that policy makers support plans that "create or expand efforts to promote active living environments that can support adults with arthritis being physically active."

Business and industry can encourage exercise through workplace wellness programs.

These programs should take into account the specific needs of people with arthritis without requiring patients to reveal an arthritis diagnosis.

Professionals involved in parks and recreation, fitness and sports should be trained on how to design exercises that can get arthritis patients to stay physically active.

The report also explains the role of mass media in the effort to encourage physical activity among arthritis patients.

The report says that mass media outlets like TV, magazines and the Internet should promote physical activity interventions that have been shown to work.

The report concludes that improvements in physical activity among arthritis patients requires a focused and dedicated effort by each of these sectors.

At the same time, all sectors need to work together. A coordinated effort may have a huge impact on the quality of life for the millions of arthritis patients in the United States.

The report, entitled "Environmental and Policy Strategies to Increase Physical Activity Among Adults with Arthritis," appears on the Arthritis Foundation website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 30, 2012
Last Updated:
August 20, 2012