A new study recently presented to the American College of Rheumatology indicates that regular exercise improves the quality of life for those who suffer from arthritis, and also reduces healthcare costs associated with arthritis treatment. What kind of impact does exercise really have, and how can activity improve this chronic condition?
Looking at the Numbers
The study, conducted under the supervision of medical resident Dr. Kai Sun from Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, examined physical activity levels in 4,700 adults who were either already diagnosed with (or at high risk levels for developing) osteoarthritis of the knee.
- Participants were divided into groups according to activity level: inactive, moderately active, and those who met national guidelines for physical activity of 150 minutes per week.
- Researchers compared the participants’ quality-adjusted years at the beginning of the study and again at the end of the study two years later.
- The quality-adjusted life years of physically active participants were higher than those who were less active, with an estimated additional 10-20 days of reduced arthritis symptoms in the course of a year.
Given this data, the researchers concluded that increasing existing activity levels, even if still not reaching the recommended minimum, would help improve the quality of life for those with arthritis as well as lower their treatment costs.
While increased physical activity improves overall health, Dr. Sun notes that exercise promotes health benefits that are specific to arthritis, including symptom mitigation, improved functionality, reduced disability and psychosocial outcomes. Encouraging arthritis patients to pursue the recommended 150 minutes per week of physical activity is a simple step that can have a positive impact on quality of life.