Lack of Leisure-time Physical Activity Hurts Arthritis Sufferers

Written By: Amy Pritchard

Fighting arthritis pain with leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) should be general practice. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), throughout the U.S. adults with arthritis have higher rates of no leisure-time physical activity compared to adults without arthritis. Using the data found in a recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) automated survey, there is a nation wide disparity between no LTPA in adults with arthritis and those without arthritis. The startling discrepancy between the two groups has prompted the CDC along with The Arthritis Foundation to promote federal initiatives to increase health communication campaigns directed to arthritis sufferers as well as promote community-based low impact exercise programs and disease-specific training for exercise professionals.

Mapping from a research survey by (BRFSS) indicating state-specific no LTPA prevalence estimates among adults with arthritis were used to compare data to no LTPA with adults without arthritis. All states have a discepency in the rates of no LTPA in adults with arthritis compared to those without.

Prevalence of no LTPA ranged from less than 20% in Colorado and Minnesota to 40% or more in Tennessee.

Despite the overwhelming research indicating physical activity improves mental and physical quality of life, arthritis sufferers are hindered to start an exercise routine due to a fear of injury, chronic joint pain, and a general lack of knowledge of safe and appropriate levels of activities. Physical activity need not be strenuous to obtain benefits; 30 minutes of brisk walking can be broken up into three 10 minute sessions. Adults with arthritis who reported having no leisure-time activity make up >33% of the adults per state who reported no LTPA.

The Arthritis Foundation initiated a wellness campaign to increase LTPA called Fight Arthritis Pain. The question asked, prompts adults with arthritis to answer the question, “How do you fight arthritis pain?” A national ad supporting LTPA shows Billie Jean King fighting arthritis with tennis.

“In 2012, the CDC Arthritis Program will initiate work with the American College of Sports Medicine to develop an arthritis-specific, skills-based training and certification program for fitness professionals” (CDC). Medical practitioners and fitness professionals should educate adults with arthritis on low impact disease-specific exercises in an effort to increase physical activity and quality of life. Consequently, increasing information and community-based exercise programs will decrease the overall rate of no LTPA in U.S. adults.

Although research has shown that physical activity decreases the occurrence of pain and suffering in chronic disease patients the BRFSS survey uncovers a prevalence of no leisure-time physical activity in adults with arthritis compared to adults without arthritis. The CDC will work to promote health education for patients with arthritis. Information targeted to these patients will include disease-specific exercise programs available and the benefits of physical activity. The CDC will also work on fostering policy and environmental initiatives that impact and benefit patients with arthritis. The ultimate goal is to decrease the national no LTPA rate for all adults, particularly those who suffer from arthritis pain.

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