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Even if you have arthritis you still need to exercise


Studies have shown that even people with inflammatory arthritis are encouraged to exercise and that it is beneficial to their health.

It is no secret that physical activity is good for your health. You can hear the song in your head that recommends moderate exercise for 30 minutes five days a week or 75 minutes two days a week. Those have been carved in stone for the last few years and most people know these recommendations well.

Now when we ask the question of how many people actually follow these recommendations the numbers are horribly low. Though it seems that many people belong to the gym, few of these dues paying members actually go to the gym.

Many people who suffer from some type of arthritis will say that their arthritis prevents them from participating in exercise. Though in a few cases this may actually be so, most people can actually participate in exercise of some sort.

There has been a recent update in these recommendations for those who suffer from inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and for those who have osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. These recommendations come from the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR). Of note, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) reported that it is in the process of updating its 2008 recommendations. It is of note that most of the time the recommendations from the European and American health agencies are quite similar.

One of the problems seen is that people who have arthritis fear that the exercise may trigger an exacerbation of their disease. EULAR noted that physical activity is safe and “no detrimental effects were reported, rather exercise has beneficial effects on disease activity and symptoms in inflammatory arthritis.” EULAR also noted that cardiovascular exercises “have a moderate beneficial effect on cardiovascular fitness.” The agency also noted that moderate benefit from strength training exercises but the combination of aerobic exercises plus strength training along with exercises to improve flexibility were not found to be beneficial in people with osteoarthritis.

The EULAR recommended guidelines also coincide with the guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association.

Adults 18 to 65 years of age should engage in either moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes 5 days a week or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity of either 20 minutes 3 days a week or a combination of both.

This amount of moderate-intensity aerobic activity can be accumulated by doing bouts of exercise lasting at least 10 minutes each to reach the recommended total of 30 minutes a day.

Adults need to engage in any activity that maintains or increases muscle strength and endurance on at least two days a week.

Anyone who wants to improve their level of fitness, reduce the risk of chronic disease and disabilities, or prevent unhealthy weight gain may exceed the minimum recommended physical activity levels.

The CDC also recommends joint-friendly activities such as walking, swimming, cycling and some exercise classes. They also emphasized muscle strengthening activities two days a week.

So now you have it. Even if you have arthritis you still need to exercise.

Dr. Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at