Exercise and Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Aerobic Exercise Can Be Safe and Effective for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis

A study by medical researchers in France found that cardio exercise can actually help people with rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, exercise can actually lessen joint pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers from the University of Grenoble Medical School in France determined that cardio-respiratory aerobic exercise is safe for patients with stable rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The team found that RA patients who exercised regularly had improved function, less joint pain and greater quality of life. The study supporting exercise and rheumatoid arthritis is published in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by swollen joints, pain, stiffness, fatigue and general malaise. It affects up to 1 percent of the global population, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) citing health-related quality of life (HRQL) studies found that RA patients were 40 percent more likely to report fair or poor general health. Additionally, they were twice as likely to have a health-related activity limitation compared to those without arthritis.

Studies: Exercise and Rheumatoid Arthritis

In a study published in Arthritis Care and Research, Athan Baillet, M.D., analyzed 510 patients in the intervention group and 530 in the control group. Participants in these studies had a mean age of 44-68 years, and their RA disease duration was 1-16 years.

“Our results show that patients with stable RA would benefit from regular aerobic exercise,” said Dr. Baillet. “Cardio-respiratory conditioning appears safe and its effects, while small, help to reduce joint pain and improve function.”

The American College of Rheumatology states that exercise is beneficial for everyone, including those with RA, and currently recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Safe forms of aerobic exercise, such as walking, aerobic dance and aquatic exercise, are excellent choices. These low impact activities help arthritis patients to control weight, and improve sleep, mood and overall health.

“While past studies have indicated that RA patients are quite physically inactive, our study shows aerobic exercise to be a safe and beneficial intervention for this group. Further trials are needed to clearly determine the clinical impact of cardio-respiratory conditioning in the management of RA,” concluded Dr. Baillet.

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