It has been clearly proven that physical exercise helps relieve pain and stiffness, and that it also increases strength and mobility in persons with arthritis and osteoarthritis. Despite the numerous studies documenting these benefits, and the recommendations from health officials on the matter, very few people do a significant amount of physical exercise each week.
In patient surveys, 30 to 40 percent of respondents say they get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or about 20 minutes a day. To confirm these allegations, researchers used special devices to track the specific activity levels of more than a thousand participants with osteoarthritis of the knee. The participants were 49 to 84 years of age and wore the devices for a week.
The researchers were surprised to find that most participants were completely sedentary. Only 13 percent of the men and 8 percent of the women did enough exercise to meet the American guidelines for physical activity! Nearly half the people who took part in the study fit the definition for “inactive,” meaning they did not take part in any moderate exercise over the course of the week. Many participants thought that they were doing vigorous activity, but the monitor refuted this perception. Most therefore overestimated how much physical exercise they did.
Some of the participants said they avoid physical activity because of joint pain or because of other conditions, such as diabetes. And yet, for individuals with arthritis or osteoarthritis, regular physical exercise adapted to their condition (e.g. walking, swimming) can help reduce their pain and improve their joint flexibility and strength.
People with arthritis or osteoarthritis who would like advice on safely becoming more active may benefit greatly from a consultation with a fitness professional, such as a kinesiologist.