Researchers from North-western University Feinberg School of Medicine have found that more than half of women and 40 percent of men with arthritis are virtually couch potatoes. They asked more than 1000 people with radiographic knee osteoarthritis to wear an accelerometer - a small, sophisticated device that looks like a pedometer - to measure their physical activity for one week during waking hours.
“We had assumed that people might be overstating physical activity in past self-reported data, but were surprised to find that the physical activity rates were much, much lower than what was previously reported,” said Dorothy Dunlop, associate professor of medicine at Feinberg and lead author of the study.
Physical activity can help people with arthritis better control and lower pain and improve general function. Some studies indicate exercise may delay or even prevent disability in people with arthritis, Ms. Dunlop said. The federal guidelines recommend that adults with arthritis participate in 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity, low-impact activity. That amounts to an average of slightly more than 20 minutes per day.
Previous studies estimated that a quarter of people with arthritis met those guidelines. “This study found that fewer than one in seven men and one in 12 women met those guidelines when we had this objective measure, using the accelerometer,” said Ms. Dunlop.
“The more alarming finding is that so many people actually qualified as being inactive,” he added.
The study was published in Arthritis and Rheumatism, August 2011.