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Arthritis Sufferers Need at Least a Little Exercise Every Day

Arthritis and exercise

Even a little activity is better than none, says experts.


Arthritis is not a single disease but in fact there are more than 100 different types of conditions that cause joint pain and disability. More than 50 million adults have some form of arthritis, and it becomes more common as we get older.

While pain may be used as an excuse to avoid exercise, it shouldn’t be that way. Staying active is one way maintain and improve strength, reduce pain, and remain functionally independent for a longer time.

In general, experts recommend 150 minutes of exercise per week – the equivalent of 30 minutes per day for 5 out of 7 days. But unfortunately, only one in 10 older adults with arthritis meet these guidelines. Not to worry - new research finds that even paring this down to just 10 minutes per day has great benefit.

Researchers with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that the equivalent of 45 minutes per week of moderate exercise such as brisk walking had participants experiencing improved function over a two year time frame.

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"The federal guidelines are very important because the more you do, the better you'll feel and the greater the health benefits you'll receive," says Dorothy Dunlop, professor of rheumatology and preventive medicine. "But even achieving this less rigorous goal will promote the ability to function and may be a feasible starting point for older adults dealing with discomfort in their joints."

What Exercises Work Best for Osteoarthritis?
Each of the following types of exercises plays a role in maintaining and improving the ability to move and function:

  • Range of motion or flexibility exercises. Range of motion refers to the ability to move your joints through the full motion they were designed to achieve. These include gentle stretching and yoga.
  • Aerobic/endurance exercise. These exercises strengthen the heart and make the lungs more efficient. It can also help shed excess weight that is damaging to the joints. Aerobic exercises include walking (particularly good for those with joint problems), jogging, bicycling, swimming or other aquatic exercises (very easy on the joints) or using the elliptical machine.
  • Strengthening exercises. These exercises – lifting weights, using resistance bands - help maintain and improve muscle strength. Strong muscles can support and protect joints that are affected by arthritis.

Journal Reference:
Dorothy D. Dunlop, et al. Physical activity minimum threshold predicting improved function in adults with lower limb symptoms. Arthritis Care & Research, 2016; DOI: 10.1002/acr.23181

Additional Resource:
Arthritis Foundation

Photo Credit:
By Tim Ross - Own work, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons