Older adults who suffer from arthritis may not feel like exercising, but a new study shows they would have less pain, fatigue and stiffness if they participated in a regular exercise program.
“The study adds to the growing body of evidence that exercise can help people with muscle and joint conditions,” said Sandra Goldsmith, director of Public and Patient Education at Hospital for Special Surgery (HHS) in New York City.
Goldsmith and her colleagues at HHS studied over 200 adults who participated in various exercise programs at the hospital, including pilates, yoga, yoga-lates (a combination of yoga and pilates), t’ai chi and dance. Classes met once each week and were led by certified instructors.
The majority of participants in the exercise program were age 75 or older. Ninety-two percent of them were women.
The study found that after taking the classes, fewer participants reported a high level of muscle and joint pain (56% before the program started vs. 47% after completing the program). Eighty-three percent reported a reduction in stiffness, 82% said they felt their balance improved, and 67% said they experienced less fatigue as a result of taking part in the program.
They also reported statistically significant reductions in how much pain interfered with their general activities, ability to walk, mood, sleep and enjoyment of life. The greatest reduction in pain was reported by those who took t’ai chi.
“Our data indicate that hospital-based programs can play an important role in pain relief, improved quality of life and improved levels of physical activity in older individuals with musculoskeletal conditions,” Goldsmith said.
Up to 50 million adults in the U.S. have some type of arthritis or musculoskeletal condition that affects their mobility and quality of life.
“Often patients with musculoskeletal disease are more deconditioned than their disease-free counterparts. Strengthening the muscles around an arthritic joint has been shown to slow the progression of osteoarthritis and reduce pain,” said Linda Russell, MD, a rheumatologist and member of the Community Benefit & Services Committee of the Board of Trustees at Hospital for Special Surgery.
An earlier, similar study at HHS found that exercise can decrease pain, reduce the severity and frequency of falls, and improve the balance of people suffering from osteoarthritis. Exercise also improved their quality and enjoyment of life.