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Arthritis: Take Action

Mature couple riding bicyclesArthritis does not have to limit your activities at any age. If you are one of the 53 million US adults living with arthritis, there are many simple things you can do to reduce symptoms and live well.

Managing Arthritis at Any Age

In the U.S., 53 million adults live with arthritis and almost half of adults 65 years of age or older have the condition. Arthritis can make it difficult for people to do everyday activities and participate in their communities, but there are effective strategies to manage these limitations. People with arthritis can use these successful strategies to improve quality of life, reduce symptoms, and reduce disability.

Arthritis is the most common cause of disability among U.S. adults.1 Activity limitations caused by arthritis are common, affecting 23 million adults with arthritis. Millions report significant limitations in everyday activities such as:

  • Walking 1/4 mile
  • Stooping, bending, or kneeling
  • Climbing stairs
  • Social activities

Comorbidity (or having more than one chronic disease or condition at the same time) affects 1 of 4 adults. Arthritis commonly occurs with heart diabetes2, heart disease3, and obesity4, and the greatest activity limitation is found among adults with both arthritis and any one of these chronic diseases or conditions. 2,3,4 A recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) reported the following:5

  • Of all the adults with either heart disease or diabetes, approximately 50% also have arthritis, and more than 25% have activity limitations caused by their arthritis.
  • Approximately 33% of obese adults have arthritis, and more than 15% have activity limitations caused by their arthritis.

Comorbidities can make life more difficult and limited for the affected person. When arthritis occurs with other diseases, particularly with diabetes2, heart disease3, and obesity4 it may hinder efforts to be more physically active, which is an important part of the management of those diseases.

In addition, arthritis alone or with other diseases can make it more difficult for adults aged 50 years or older to participate in their communities because of potentially modifiable barriers in the environment—including building design, sidewalks and curbs, transportation, and crowds.

People are encouraged to find ways to increase physical activity and community participation. Some tips are provided here.

Mature couple walking

Walking can help ease joint pain and improve quality of life.

Live Better by Being Active

The pain and social activity limitations caused by arthritis can be managed, improving quality-of-life and reducing disability. Both aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises have been proven to reduce pain and improve functional limitations6, which delays disability and allows people with arthritis to maintain independence. Physical activity can also help people with arthritis manage other chronic conditions they may have such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Scientific studies have shown that participating in moderate-intensity, low-impact activities, such as walking, biking, swimming, and water aerobics—are good forms of exercise that are safe for most adults with arthritis6—and it's never too late to start.

Physical activity is an important part of healthy aging. Several group classes specifically appropriate for people with arthritis are recommended by CDC and are made available in communities across the country.

  • Both aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises have been proven to reduce pain and improve functional limitations6
  • Scientific studies have shown that participating in moderate-intensity, low-impact activities, such as walking, biking, swimming, and water aerobics—are good forms of exercise that are safe for most adults with arthritis6

Live Better by Learning Skills

Self-management education classes, such as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, have been proven to increase exercise, confidence in making healthy lifestyle changes, and the ability to do household and social activities, and decrease depression, pain, and frustration about health. Self-management education classes help people learn techniques to reduce pain and improve function and to develop skills and confidence to manage arthritis and other conditions daily. Using these skills can make it easier to age well with arthritis.

Live Better by Managing Your Weight

Obesity is common among people with arthritis and is associated with the following:

  • Arthritis-related disease progression
  • Activity limitation
  • Disability
  • Reduced quality-of-life
  • Total joint replacement
  • Poor clinical outcomes after joint replacement

Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight may be challenging, but it is particularly important for people with arthritis. At any age, low-impact physical activity (like walking) and dietary changes can lead to successful weight loss for people with arthritis. In fact, losing as little as 10 to 12 pounds can improve pain and function.

Live Better by Talking to Your Health Care Provider

Being under the care of a health care professional and attending regular appointments can benefit people with arthritis. Because arthritis and other chronic conditions are more common as people age, appropriate medical care is important. For people with inflammatory types of rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, proper medical management through medications and other treatments is important to managing pain, inflammation, fatigue, and preventing potential disability.

Live Better by Getting More Information

References

  1. CDC. Prevalence and most common causes of disability among adults, United States, 2005. MMWR. 2009;58:421-426.
  2. Bolen J, Hootman J, Helmick CG, Murphy L, Langmaid G. Arthritis as a potential barrier to physical activity among adults with diabetes—United States, 2005 and 2007. MMWR 2008;57:486-489.
  3. Bolen J, Murphy L, Greenlund K, Helmick CG, Hootman J, Brady TJ, Langmaid G. Keenan N. Arthritis as a potential barrier to physical activity among adults with heart disease—United States, 2005-2007. MMWR 2009;58:165-169. [also in JAMA 2009;301:1978-1980]
  4. Hootman JM, Murphy LB, Helmick CG, Barbour KE. Arthritis as a potential barrier to physical activity among adults with obesity—United States, 2007 and 2009. MMWR 2011;60:614-618. [also in JAMA 2011;306:262-264]
  5. CDC. Prevalence of doctor-diagnosed arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitation—United States, 2010–2012. MMWR 2013;62(44).
  6. Kelley GA, Kelley KS, Hootman JM, Jones DL. Effects of community-deliverable exercise on pain and physical function in adults with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases: a meta-analysis. Arthritis Care Res. 2011;63:79-93.
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