suffering from arthritis may find the thought of physical activity too
painful to contemplate, a study by a University of South Carolina Arnold
School of Public Health researcher finds that healthcare professionals
and communities need to do a better job to promote the health benefits
of physical activity for those suffering from this debilitating disease.
Sara Wilcox, the lead
author of a study in the August issue of Arthritis Care & Research,
looked at the motivation that people with arthritis have to exercise and
what prevents others from becoming physically active.
The findings of the
study, conducted at USC and supported by a grant from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention and the Association of Schools of Public
Health, have direct implications on ways to market and tailor exercise
programs to arthritis patients, as well as how to encourage and sustain
“Our results provide
useful information for understanding the experiences with and beliefs
about exercise among persons with arthritis,” she said. “We also have a
better idea about developing intervention programs and recruiting
patients into these programs.”
The USC research team
conducted focus groups among people with arthritis. Participants
discussed their perceptions of exercise, as well as their experiences.
Common themes among the
Pain: Although all
focus groups stressed pain as a barrier, exercisers were more likely
to make adaptations and work through the pain to attain the benefits
of exercise, while non-exercisers were more likely to give up
beliefs: Non-exercisers were much more likely than exercisers to
express the belief that they were physically unable to exercise.
support: Non-exercisers were more likely to cite their physician*s
failure to refer them to helpful exercise programs and to voice
their desire for exercise partners with similar limitations.
Lack of programs:
For both exercisers and non-exercisers, the lack of exercise
programs or facilities for individuals with arthritis is a barrier
Exercisers tended to be more positive about how exercise could
reduce pain and improve mobility because they had experienced these
Getting people with
arthritis up and moving is critical because arthritis is the leading
cause of disability in the United States, Wilcox said.
Among the many
approaches to disease management, exercise has been shown to reduce
pain, delay disability, and improve physical function, muscle strength,
and quality of life, she said.
compelling, well-documented benefits, rates of participation in regular
exercise are lower among individuals with arthritis than those without
it,” she said.
To increase regular
exercise among arthritis patients, Wilcox offers recommendations for
health care professionals and communities:
Make a practice of
prescribing exercise, with referrals and instruction.
Work to expand the
availability of arthritis-specific exercise programs.
Emphasize ways in
which individuals with arthritis can modify exercise to accommodate
their physical limitations and effectively manage the pain.
change their mindsets and behavior about physical activity.
“Arthritis is a
progressive disease that costs the nation about $86 billion annually, a
figure that is expected to rise as Baby Boomers age,” Wilcox said.
“While physical activity can be difficult for those who have arthritis,
the long-term health benefits are critical.”
• Arthritis Care & Research