Arthritis Foundation’s Exercise Program Relieves Arthritis Aches and Pains
March 20, 2008—People with arthritis sometimes avoid exercise because their joints hurt, but physical activity may be a key factor in improving symptoms. A new study found that people with arthritis who attended exercise classes for eight weeks gained strength, had more confidence in their ability to manage their arthritis, and had less pain, stiffness, and fatigue.
The study, published in Arthritis and Rheumatism, included 346 people with self-reported arthritis that was causing them to avoid exercise and limiting their ability to function. About half of them were assigned to participate in the People with Arthritis Can Exercise (PACE) program.
PACE was developed by the Arthritis Foundation in 1987 to help people with arthritis bring exercise into their lives. Participants meet for a one-hour exercise class twice per week for eight weeks. The program is offered at fitness centers, churches, senior centers, and other community locations around the United States. The basic level, for older adults who are generally sedentary, focuses on range-of-motion and low-resistance strength-training exercises. An advanced level is also offered.
At the end of the trial, the people who completed nine or more of the PACE basic classes had greater improvement in pain, fatigue, stiffness, strength, and confidence in their ability to manage their arthritis than people who were not in the exercise group. Six months after the end of the trial, the people who had done the PACE series still had less pain and fatigue, and those who were continuing the exercises at home had less stiffness as well.
These results support the conclusions from several previous smaller studies, which found that participating in PACE improves symptoms, strength, function, and psychosocial behaviors in people with arthritis.
In order to develop and promote the most effective exercise program for people with arthritis, the study’s authors said that more research is needed to determine whether extending the program beyond eight weeks and offering classes more than twice per week would lead to additional benefits.
“Our findings show that participating in the eight-week PACE basic program is a safe way for sedentary older people with arthritis to begin to exercise,” commented Leigh Callahan, PhD, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Some people with arthritis are afraid to exercise because they anticipate that physical activity will increase their symptoms, but in our study, participating in the PACE classes actually decreased some important arthritis symptoms: pain, stiffness, and fatigue. As with any exercise program, people need to stay with the program to maintain its benefits over time.”
(Arthritis Rheum 2008;59:92–101)
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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