Exercise Helps Manage Arthritis Symptoms
The benefits of exercise as part of a treatment program for managing arthritis are well-known and documented. Data from a national survey revealed that 37% of people with arthritis get no exercise, despite the potential benefits.
It has been recognized that exercise can reduce pain, improve physical function, improve muscle strength, and improve quality of life for people with arthritis. Even so, people with arthritis have a lower rate of participation in regular exercise than people without arthritis. With more to gain, what accounts for the low rate of participation among people with arthritis?
Study Analyzes Arthritis Patients' Perception of Exercise
A study reported in the August 2006 issue of Arthritis Care & Research analyzes what motivates some people with arthritis to exercise, while others avoid it. The study was conducted at the University of South Carolina and involved 68 study participants who were divided into 12 focus groups.
The focus groups were separated according to socioeconomic status, race, and exercise status to facilitate open communication. The groups discussed both their perception of exercise and their experience with exercising.
The discussions were analyzed for certain themes. "Exercisers" were defined as people with arthritis who:
- participated in moderate activities three or more days a week for 30 minutes per day
- participated in vigorous activities three or more days a week for 20 minutes per day
- participated in strength training three or more days a week for 20 minutes a day
The perceptions of exercisers were compared to those of non-exercisers.
All 12 focus groups said pain interfered with exercise. As would be expected, exercisers were more likely to adapt to the pain, while non-exercisers gave up and avoided exercise.
Non-exercisers, more often than exercisers, expressed that they were physically unable to exercise.
Lack of SupportNon-exercisers, more often than exercisers, blamed their doctor for not suggesting an exercise program. Non-exercisers also expressed that it would be helpful to have a partner with similar physical limitations.
Lack of Exercise Programs
Both exercisers and non-exercisers expressed that there were insufficient exercise programs or facilities available to people with arthritis.
Pain Management/Symptom Management
Exercisers expressed positive benefits they had personally experienced such as less pain and improved mobility. Non-exercisers did not speak of exercise as being beneficial to them but spoke of understanding that exercise can be beneficial.
Researchers concluded that it is important to improve the perception of exercise among arthritis patients. Researchers recommended that:
- doctors prescribe regular exercise and offer referrals and instruction
- the availability of exercise programs specific to arthritis should be expanded
- arthritis patients should be encouraged to modify exercises to allow for physical limitations
- exercise should be approached in ways which will improve the perceptions of non-exercisers
As with many aspects of daily living, it is imperative that arthritis patients learn to adapt and recognize that they can remain active. Adjustments may allow arthritis patients to exercise, making arthritis symptoms more manageable. Patients should focus on making adjustments and adapting when possible, not avoiding.
Source: Perceived Exercise Barriers, Enablers, and Benefits Among Exercising and Non-exercising Adults With Arthritis: Results From a Qualitative Study, Sara Wilcox et al, Arthritis Care & Research, August 2006