Arthritic Couch Potatoes

Osteoarthritis patients are inactive or not getting enough physical activity

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

(RxWiki News) Get your butt off the couch and get moving! Exercise is good for everyone, especially if you have arthritis.

Even though physical activity is one of the best ways to make arthritis better, too many arthritis patients do not get much exercise at all. In fact, a great deal of arthritis patients are basically couch potatoes.

"Get more exercise if you have arthritis."

That fact that so many arthritis patients are classified as "inactive" is alarming. These findings should be a wake-up call to doctors, says Dorothy Dunlop, Ph.D., from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study.

Doctors need to remind their patients with arthritis that exercise is good for them, says Dunlop, despite having this painful joint disease. Even if people with arthritis cannot get enough exercise to reach the recommended levels (150 minutes per week of moderate exercise), they should still be as physically active as possible.

Two exercise activities that are recommended to people with arthritis are brisk walks and water aerobics. Dunlop tells patients that they should talk to their doctor about any concerns before starting an exercise program.

According to fitness expert James Crowell, "I have found that most of those who discussed feeling the effects of arthritis reported feeling better after getting on a regular exercise program. If properly monitored exercise can add muscle and flexibility to people of any age, [then] those effects can help reduce the pain of arthritis."

When it comes to exercising, Dunlop concludes, the benefits make up for any of the risks that an arthritis patient may face while doing physical activity.

Dunlop and colleagues came to these conclusions by studying 1,000 people with radiographic knee osteoarthritis (knee arthritis that shows up in an x-ray) who wore an accelerometer - a small device that can measure physical activity. The researchers measured participants' physical activity for one week.

This study was the first to use an electronic device to objectively measure the physical activity of arthritis patients, rather than using self-reported physical activity levels.

Dunlop says the research team had assumed that some people in the past studies were reporting much more physical activity than they were actually doing. The results of this new study show that the physical activity levels were extremely lower than was reported in previous studies.

The researchers found that less than one in seven men and one in 12 women were meeting the recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

An all the more worrisome finding was that 40.1 percent of men and 56.5 percent of women were deemed inactive - meaning they did not even complete 10 minutes straight of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity during the entire week they wore the accelerometer.

The study is published in Arthritis & Rheumatism. It was supported in part by the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases and the Falk Medical Research Trust.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 12, 2011
Last Updated:
August 15, 2011