Versus Arthritis Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis
University of Nottingham

New study aims to improve analysis of physical activity in osteoarthritis patients

Published by Arthritis Research UK | 16 May 2017

The scientific assessment of physical activity trends in people with osteoarthritis could be enhanced thanks to a new study funded by Arthritis Research UK.

Led by the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis at the University of Oxford, the study looked at reporting methods of physical activity across a number of international studies, before making a series of recommendations about how these methods could be made more consistent.

Forming a clearer consensus

Researchers are becoming increasingly aware that physical activity needs to be considered an important factor when studying osteoarthritis, but methods of assessing exercise levels are generally highly variable and have not been developed for use within scientific studies.

Since this creates difficulties when comparing and interpreting data across different pieces of research, the aim of this study - published in the journal Rheumatology International - was to to establish an expert consensus on the most appropriate methods.

After speaking to an expert panel, a number of recommendations were outlined. These included emphasising the need for all parameters of a given activity - including duration, frequency, type and intensity to be given within a specified timeframe, while physical activity should be measured across all domains of daily life, including not just dedicated sport and leisure time, but also household chores or gardening, active travel, and occupational activity.

Efforts also need to be made to better account for the effect of job-related physical work on osteoarthritis risk, while a consistent system of measuring joint loading for each reported activity is required.

What benefits will this study deliver?

It is hoped that by establishing these guidelines, it will be easier for researchers to compare and contrast their osteoarthritis study findings in future, leading to a higher quality of scientific insight.

The researchers concluded: "The application of these recommendations in future individual patient meta-analysis on physical activity and osteoarthritis will provide a homogeneous way to assess physical activity in cohorts from around the world."

They added: "These findings will also be useful for any study investigating physical activity and other long-term health outcomes in existing cohort data."

Professor Nigel Arden from the University of Oxford, who led the study, said: "This is an important first step to allow us to combine data on physical activity and osteoarthritis from around the world. It will eventually allow us to produce evidence-based recommendations for exercise to optimise joint health."

Arthritis Research UK's view

Dr Devi Rani Sagar, interim research liaison and communications manager at Arthritis Research UK, said: "Exercise is very important for the millions of people living with the pain of osteoarthritis. We advise people to strike the right balance between rest and exercise; too much activity may increase pain, but too little can make joints stiffen up.

"Assessing the relationship between physical activity and osteoarthritis is important when trying to understand the condition. This relationship can be hard to understand at the moment, due to the differences in methods used in studies; this study is important, as it will allow researchers to be able to compare data from around the world to answer complex questions such as this.

"We hope that this will lead to greater insight into the condition and, ultimately, find new ways to help people with osteoarthritis manage their condition."

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Posted on Tuesday 16th May 2017