Physical Activity among Persons with Arthritis
Summary written by Kevin Fontaine, Ph.D.
It is no secret that regular physical activity (PA) produces health benefits, including decreased mortality and morbidity from a number of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. Despite this, the majority of US adults do not get enough physical activity to derive these benefits. In 1996, the Surgeon General identified physical inactivity as a public health problem and recommended that all US adults participate in regular, moderate intensity leisure time PA. Specifically, that every adult should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity PA on most, if not all, days of the week. To investigate whether persons with and without arthritis are meeting this public health recommendation, Hootman and associates (Arthritis Care & Research, 49, 129-135, 2003) analyzed data from a large sample survey of the US adult population.
Methods: Using data from the 2000 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) they estimated the prevalences of persons with and without arthritis who were physically active, insufficiently active (i.e., not active enough to derive health benefits), or physically inactive. Data were age-adjusted and broken down by a variety of demographic characteristics such as race, education, and body weight.
Results: Overall, 27.3% of US adults did not engage in any leisure time PA, 46.5% reported insufficient levels of PA, and 26.2% reported engaging in recommended levels of PA. Nearly a third (32.3%) reported having arthritis. Among those with arthritis, 30.8% were inactive compared with 25.8% of persons without arthritis. The prevalence of inactivity among persons with arthritis was highest among women (33.6%), persons aged 45 or greater, blacks (37.7%), Hispanics (42.5%), those who were obese (35.7%), and those with 12 or fewer years of education (36.7%). Less than one quarter (24.3%) of persons with arthritis reported meeting PA recommendations.
Conclusions: Despite the documented benefit of PA for persons with arthritis, the prevalence of physical inactivity among arthritis suffers is higher than that found among persons without arthritis. Certain subgroups (e.g., women, minorities, persons with obesity) were at increased risk of being physically inactive.
Editorial Comments: Rates of physical inactivity among persons with arthritis is of great concern since PA has not only been shown to reduce pain and improve functioning in persons with arthritis, it also reduces the burden of a number of health conditions (e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension) that many persons with arthritis experience. Thus, finding ways to promote increased PA among persons with arthritis is of particular importance. Fortunately, there are many forms of PA (e.g., swimming, bicycling) that are gentle to the joints and can be performed regularly both to improve the arthritis and promote health. Efforts should be made to ensure that persons with arthritis are not only made aware of these benefits, but also that they are prescribed PA interventions to assist them in becoming more physically active.