Arthritis and Exercise

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Earlier today, my mom and I were video-chatting just to keep in touch, as we usually do. She mentioned to me that she went on a 5 mile walk today and that she was tired. I was confused when she said she went on a walk, because my mom typically goes on runs. When I asked her about it, she explained that she is developing osteoarthritis  in her knees, and that he doctor recommended that she avoids running for a while until they decide on further action for treating it.


This confused me, seeing as how on every commercial (example here) I’ve seen advertising medicine for arthritis, they say the phrase “a body that’s in motion stays in motion”, or something like that. Of course, this is only an anecdote, so I am going to look at some studies done on arthritis to see if exercise does relieve symptoms, and then I’m going to examine what the best type of exercise is for people with arthritis.

In a meta-analysis published by the French Society of Rheumatology, doctors gathered as much of the existing data about people with arthritis and the effect that exercise had on them as possible. In their meta-analysis of the large amount of data, they concluded that exercise has a plethora of benefits for those suffering from arthritis. Of these benefits there is improved mood, a better range of motion, and even a deceleration of the progression of arthritis. Based off of this meta-analysis, I think the commercials catch phrase was accurate: Arthritis patients that exercise lessen the severity of their symptoms. So now that it’s been established that exercise does relieve symptoms of arthritis, what kind of exercise is the best for arthritis patients?

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An experimental study published by the Journal of Rheumatology may actually help to answer my question. In this experiment, 75 adults with arthritis were randomly assigned to participate in yoga classes, or be put on a “wait-list” (control group) for eight weeks. Both groups were evaluated before, during, and after the trial and examined for improvements in their arthritis. The study found that those who were assigned to the yoga had an increase in their flexibility, their ability to balance, as well as general physical and psychological improvements in health, with a reported p-value<.05.  This experiment seems very reliable, seeing as it is a randomized control trial. My only complaint is that the study was done with mostly women, so yoga many have a different impact on men with arthritis, so I feel if there was a more men in this study the results would be even better.

So here’s what I’ve learned: Exercise is good for arthritis patients, and aerobic exercises, such as yoga, are extremely beneficial for those with arthritis. I’m no doctor, so I won’t tell my mom to start running again, but maybe I’ll suggest that she should try to do some low intensity yoga until she hears more from her doctor.

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