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

Older arthritis patients 'can benefit from 45 minutes of activity per week'

Published by ARthritis Research UK | 13 January 2017

Older people with arthritis can see benefits from getting more active, even if they are not able to achieve the recommended ideal amount of exercise on a weekly basis.

This is according to a new study from Northwestern University in the US, which indicated that even 45 minutes of activity per week can result in tangible health benefits that would not be achieved if patients remained sedentary.

Setting more achievable goals

Currently, US government guidelines recommend that people take part in 150 minutes of moderate activity per week to prevent premature death and serious illness. However, only one in ten older American adults with arthritis in their knees are able to do this.

The new study, published in the medical journal Arthritis Care & Research, set 45 minutes a week as a less overwhelming activity goal, and then investigated whether or not this was enough to help yield functional benefits.

It was found that overall, only one-third of participants improved or had high function after two years, but participants who achieved a minimum of 45 minutes of moderate activity per week were 80 percent more likely to improve or sustain high future function, a finding that was true for both men and women.

The benefits of small lifestyle changes

Although it was emphasised that more exercise leads to better results, this study indicated that even this less rigorous goal can benefit joint health and lead to a better quality of life.

Moderate-intensity activities include pastimes such as as brisk walking, and are generally more valuable than light activity, such as pushing a shopping trolley.

Dorothy Dunlop, professor of rheumatology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said: "Even a little activity is better than none. For those older people suffering from arthritis who are minimally active, a 45-minute minimum might feel more realistic."

Arthritis Research UK's view

Dr Stephen Simpson, director of research and programmes at Arthritis Research UK, said: "This research is very interesting and provides new evidence that small changes can have an impact and push back the limits of arthritis, which affects ten million people in the UK.

"We know that it's important to exercise regularly to keep joints supple, strengthen muscles, maintain bone density and stay healthy and independent. Inactivity is bad for painful joints and increases stiffness. In the long term, muscles will weaken, making movement even more difficult and your joints even more painful.

"Exercising does become harder as we get older. However, we have some great, simple exercises on our website, especially designed for people with arthritis and joint pain."

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Posted on Thursday 2nd February 2017