Study: Exercise helps arthritis patients

February 6, 2008 6:45:37 PM PST
For the first time, researchers from the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center in Chapel Hill have found solid scientific evidence that exercise does make a difference in improving arthritis symptoms for patients.

The study involved 346 patients with an average age of 70 who had self-reported arthritis. Dr. Leigh Callahan led the study saying, "We did the first evidence based study of the trial. There's never been an evidence based trial, solid scientific evidence that show if exercise does this work for arthritis patients to offer improvements."

Norma Willhoit is one of the patients studied. She is also one of 46 million Americans suffering from painful and often disabling arthritis.

"It was difficult for me to wake up this morning," said Willhoit. "More recently the skin on my hands hurts." But, through the study, Willhoit found exercise helps her painful arthritis symptoms. "We do everything in here stretching, strengthening, and balancing," said Willhoit. "It seems like doing these things repeatedly doing them everyday is good to help you just get up and get moving."

Researchers found after only 8 weeks of exercise, the patients in the study, like Willhoit, had significant improvements with pain, fatigue, and managing arthritis.

"We had individuals with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia. They had less pain, less stiffness, and fatigue after the intervention," said Callahan. She added, "One of the things we found was an improvement in self efficacy. That people felt like they can manage their arthritis better.

Exercise has improved Norma Willhoit's symptoms. "I think I do a little bit everyday. Sometimes I have to do a little bit just to get out of bed," said Willhoit.

She plans to continue her exercise routine, and researcher Dr. Leigh Callahan says the studies findings should encourage other arthritis patients to do the same.

"It's proof to say not only does exercise not hurt you, not make your disease worse, it will make you better, your symptoms," said Callahan.


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