Two new studies highlight how regular exercise can help relieve pain and improve the mood of people with chronic health problems.
Researchers at Northwestern University and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago found that two in five adults who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were physically inactive. The study, which was published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, strongly recommends that arthritis sufferers increase their physical activity to improve their health.
Nearly 1.3 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic and painful condition characterized by systematic joint inflammation. Until the early 1980’s, many doctors recommended medication and rest for arthritis sufferers. But new medical evidence has shown that regular and moderate physical activity can strengthen muscles, reduce pain, and improve joint flexibility and balance.
“While there is much evidence of the benefits of physical activity, RA patients are generally not physically active, and physicians often do not encourage regular physical activity in this patient population,” said Dr. Jungwha Lee, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “Our study aims to expand understanding of the risk factors associated with inactivity among adults with RA and encourage clinical interventions that promote participation in physical activity.”
Dr. Lee and his colleagues studied 176 rheumatoid arthritis patients and monitored their physical activity over 7 day period. They found that 42% of the patients led sedentary lives, participating in no moderate or vigorous physical activity at any time during the week long period. Researchers found that 53% were not strongly motivated to exercise and 49% lacked strong beliefs in the benefits of physical activity. 90% reported some level of pain.
“Physical inactivity among RA patients is a public health concern,” concludes Dr. Lee. “Our results suggest that public health initiatives need to address the lack of motivation to exercise and promote the benefits of physical activity to reduce the prevalence of inactivity in those with RA.”
Another study, being published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that regular exercise brightens the mood of people with chronic health problems like cancer, heart disease and back pain.
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham combed through data from 90 earlier studies that assessed the health problems of over 10,000 people suffering from cancer, heart disease, fibromyalgia, chronic pain or obesity. In each study, people were randomly chosen to exercise three times a week for 17 weeks. Their symptoms of depression declined by 22 percent compared to a control group that did not exercise
Moderate exercise of at least 150 minutes per week and vigorous exercise of at least 75 minutes seemed to help the most.