Not Enough of a Good Thing

Osteoarthritis patients are not getting recommended levels of physical activity

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

(RxWiki News) Osteoarthritis patients can benefit greatly from exercise. But how many arthritis patients actually take advantage of this cheap and effective form of treatment?

Many patients with osteoarthritis of the knee are inactive, even though physical activity is known to improve arthritis symptoms.

"Exercise to improve your arthritis."

Clinical practice guidelines for osteoarthritis recommend physical activity as a major part of treatment. At the same time, there is not much information on the amount that arthritis patients exercise. Dorothy D. Dunlop, Ph.D., of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and colleagues set out to fill this knowledge gap by measuring the levels of physical activity in adults with knee osteoarthritis.

It is recommended that arthritis patients get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per week. Each exercise session should last for 10 minutes or more.

"Strengthening and mobility exercises are important for people with osteoarthritis," says Diane Shiao, P.T., M.S.P.T., D.P.T., who was not involved in the study. "When the muscles around the joints are strong and tensile, the ground reaction forces acting upon the joints are absorbed by the muscles rather than the joints. Thus, the reduced friction and shock of the joint surfaces will keep the irritation and consequential inflammation at bay."

Some past studies have tried to assess levels of physical activity among arthritis patients. However, most of these studies measured physical activity based on self-reported responses from the patients themselves. Dr. Dunlop and colleagues wanted to gain an objective measure of physical activity. In other words, they wanted to see for themselves how much exercise patients were getting instead of relying on the patients to give an accurate measure.

They found that more than 56 percent of women and about 40 percent of men with knee osteoarthritis were inactive. A little under 13 percent of men met the physical activity guidelines, while only 7.7 percent of women met those guidelines.

While men did more moderate-to-vigorous activity than women, they also spent more time doing low-intensity or no activity compared to women.

These results suggests that levels of physical activity among arthritis patients are much lower than past studies have shown. According to the authors, "these findings support intensified public health efforts to increase physical activity levels among people with knee osteoarthritis."

For their study, the researchers looked at cross-sectional aceelerometry data from 1,111 adults with osteoarthritis of the knee. The participants were between 49 and 84 years of age.

The study is published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 9, 2011
Last Updated:
November 15, 2011