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Physical Activity Among Arthritis Patients

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By Center for Disease Control News Release • www.ProHealth.com • January 15, 2000


SUMMARY: Although regular physical activity is associated with important physical and mental health benefits (1), an estimated 53 million U.S. adults are inactive during their leisure time. These study findings report on physical activity among arthritis patients.

ABSTRACT: Although regular physical activity is associated with important physical and mental health benefits (1), an estimated 53 million U.S. adults are inactive during their leisure time -- the period most amenable to efforts to increase physical activity. The presence of chronic conditions, especially those associated with disabilities, may reduce levels of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA). Arthritis and other rheumatic conditions (e.g., osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, fibromyalgia, and other diseases of the joints) are leading causes of disability (2) and are among the most prevalent chronic conditions in the United States, affecting approximately 40 million persons in 1995 and a projected 60 million persons in 2020 (3). This report uses data from the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) supplement of the 1990-1991 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to provide estimates of LTPA among persons with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions by disability status and compares these estimates with those for persons without arthritis and other rheumatic conditions. The findings indicate that the prevalence of LTPA among persons with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions is less than that among persons without arthritis and other rheumatic conditions.

NHIS is a probability sample of the U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population. In 1990 and 1991, approximately 120,000 persons in 47,000 households were surveyed each year (4). The survey population was persons in the one-sixth sample of respondents who were asked questions about the presence of musculoskeletal conditions during the preceding 12 months. Each condition was assigned an International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9), code. The category arthritis and other rheumatic conditions was classified as a condition that matched ICD-9 codes * selected by the National Arthritis Data Workgroup; this definition excludes other musculoskeletal conditions such as tumors, bone disorders, fractures, and back and neck disorders. In this report, "arthritis" denotes arthritis and other rheumatic conditions.
Responses to core NHIS questions were used to determine disability, defined as long-term reduction in a person's capacity to perform the average kind or amount of activities associated with his or her age group and typically resulting from chronic disease or impairment. Responses to the HPDP supplement were used to determine LTPA. For the HPDP supplement, one adult (aged greater than or equal to 18 years) per household was randomly selected to answer questions; only those who self-reported were included (response rate for combined NHIS and HPDP supplement: 83%). Each respondent was asked whether he or she had engaged in any of 21 physically active hobbies, sports, or exercises during the 2 weeks preceding the interview; the respondent also was allowed to list two additional hobbies, sports, or exercises in which he or she had participated. For each activity, frequency, duration, and relative intensity were assessed. LTPA was divided into four categories: no reported LTPA, regular vigorous LTPA, regular light-to-moderate LTPA, and less than regular LTPA. ** To account for the complex sample design, variances were computed using SUDAAN, and rates were compared using a two-tailed t-test.

In 1990 and 1991, arthritis was present in approximately 20% (95% confidence interval=plus or minus 0.4%) of the U.S. population aged greater than or equal to 18 years. Among these persons, the rate of no reported LTPA was higher than that for persons without arthritis; the rates of less than regular LTPA and regular light-to-moderate LTPA were similar to that for persons without arthritis; and the rate of regular vigorous LTPA was lower than that for persons without arthritis. Persons with nondisabling arthritis had higher rates of no reported LTPA, similar rates of less than regular LTPA and regular light-to-moderate LTPA, and lower rates of regular vigorous LTPA when compared with persons without arthritis and without disability. Persons with disabling arthritis had higher rates of no reported LTPA, similar rates of light-to-moderate LTPA, and lower rates of less than regular and regular vigorous LTPA when compared with persons without arthritis and with a disability caused by another condition.

Reported by: MP LaPlante, Dept of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the Institute for Health and Aging, Univ of California, San Francisco. Health Care and Aging Studies Br, Div of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC.



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