Even without weight loss, physical activity may help arthritis patients

Recently there has been a great deal of discussion regarding the importance of exercise for arthritis patients. 

While many people with this condition believe that physical activity is something they should avoid because it may further damage their joints, research has shown that working out can be very beneficial to this population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that exercise is as important for people with osteoarthritis and other joint disorders as it is for everyone else. The organization states that along with being a potential way to relieve pain, moderate physical activity can improve a patient's mood and quality of life.

Working out can also potentially lead to weight loss, and putting less pressure on the joints can improve arthritis symptoms. Even without dropping extra pounds though, physical activity can be beneficial to these patients.

Researchers from Duke University Medical Center have recently discovered that exercise, even when it does not result in weight loss, can relieve arthritis.

"Ideally, it would be best to be fit and lose a little weight, but this shows that exercise alone can improve the health of your joints," said Farshid Guilak, Ph.D., professor of orthopaedic surgery at Duke and senior author of the study.

The scientists fed two sets of mice high-fat diets, and only had one group remain physically active. Although the animals that exercised did not lose a substantial amount of weight, they showed less joint inflammation and an increase in glucose levels. These are signs that the risk of arthritis was reduced in the active mice.

The Arthritis Foundation states that 1 in 5 Americans has been diagnosed with an arthritic condition. This results in over $128 billion in healthcare costs each year, putting a strain both on the joints and bank accounts of U.S. residents.

Guilak and his colleagues say that their findings add to the growing body of research that suggests that exercise can help relieve or combat a variety of conditions. They recognized that for obese or arthritic individuals, working out may seem like an unachievable feat, but that staying with a program and gradually increasing intensity can eventually have positive long-term effects.

"Sometimes pain can be a barrier to starting exercise, but if you overcome it, in the long term, it's better," said Guilak.