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Exercise Proves Beneficial in Fighting Arthritis

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By Arthritissupport staff • • July 7, 2000

Regular exercise, long associated with increased energy levels and other health benefits in the general population, is especially important for arthritis sufferers. Yet despite scientific evidence that regular physical activity has significant physical and mental health benefits, 7 million arthritis sufferers have limited activity.

Findings from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that persons with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions are significantly less active than the population as a whole. This may be because in the past, people with arthritis were recommended against exercising because it was thought that excessive movement would damage joints.

The research indicated that people with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions were significantly more likely to report no leisure time physical activity at all, and had significantly lower rates of vigorous physical activity.

But The Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health found that for people with osteoarthritis "regular physical activity is necessary for maintaining normal muscle strength, joint structure, and joint function...and was not associated with joint damage or development of osteoarthritis and may beneficial for many people with arthritis."

Other studies have found that persons with arthritis have experienced improvement in muscle function and other important health benefits from exercise training. This was even true for older adults with arthritis.

Exercise Reduces Pain

For people suffering from arthritis, exercise can reduce pain. Although the results from exercise may not be immediate, the benefits are thought to be beneficial overall. The hardest part is starting and may be when individuals with arthritis experience the most pain. It is advised that one ease into an exercise routine and not rush into one.

For all arthritis sufferers, stationary bikes and water exercise can be useful and do not put extra pressure on painful joints. Water exercise is beneficial for the water bears the weight, not the individual. For people who use wheelchairs attaching ankle weights to the wrists if you have trouble with hand-held weights.

People with arthritis should see their doctor or physical or occupational therapist prior to increasing their level of physical activity. Both patients and health care providers can get advice and help from the Arthritis Foundation.

Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Atlanta, Georgia.
Wilder, Shannon. (May/June 2000). Think You Can’t Exercise? You Can. Arthritis Today, 61-66.

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