Get Active for Improved Arthritis Symptoms


Improving arthritis symptoms may be as simple as getting some exercise.

Arthritis patients enrolled in a self-directed exercise program saw improvements in flexibility, pain, energy levels and lower body strength, a new study found. Patients enrolled in a nutrition program also saw improvements.

The exercise program, called First Step to Active Health, may be more convenient than gym-centered exercise classes or regimens because patients can complete it at home, the authors of this study noted.

The authors of this study, led by Sara Wilcox, PhD, of the University of South Carolina in Columbia, wrote that “this study provides evidence to support recommending First Step to Active Health as an exercise program for adults with arthritis.”

The First Step program provided the 197 arthritis patients in this study with exercise logs, safety information and recommended exercises. Study patients were 56.3 years old on average. The patients exercised at their own pace. Dr. Wilcox and team assessed the patients at the start of the study, 12 weeks and nine months.

The exercises in this program focused on heart health, balance and flexibility.

Another group of 204 arthritis patients followed a nutrition program rather than an exercise program.

The nutrition group lost about 2 pounds on average over nine months — while the exercise patients maintained their weight. Although the nutrition group lost more weight, the exercise patients reported exercising more.

Twelve weeks into this study, the exercise group reported 3.1 hours of exercise per week. The nutrition group exercised for 2.3 hours per week.

Both groups showed improvement their level of pain and physical abilities 12 weeks into this study. The two groups had similar boosts in factors like walking, flexibility, stiffness, pain and energy levels. For the most part, both groups were able to maintain these improvements for at least nine months.

Arthritis is chronic inflammation of the joints. It is marked by symptoms like pain, stiffness and swelling.

Dr. Wilcox and team noted that both exercise and healthy eating are simple, low-cost measures that could improve arthritis patients’ symptoms. Patients should speak to their doctors before starting a new diet or exercise program.

This study was published in the January 2015 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded this research. Dr. Wilcox and colleagues disclosed no conflicts of interest.