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More seniors should use exercise to manage arthritis, experts say

May 10, 2013

More than 20 million Americans live with the pain and discomfort caused by osteoarthritis, and while these symptoms may make it difficult for them to exercise, experts agree that physical activity is among the best ways to ease the pain and reduce the effects of the condition. Despite these benefits, recent research suggests many people in the over-55 crowd with arthritis are not doing all they can to manage their symptoms.

Lace up your shoes
Simple activities such as walking are among the most effective methods of treating arthritis, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found recently that many seniors are not taking advantage. Researchers determined that 53 percent of people with arthritis did not walk for exercise at all, while 66 percent got less than 90 minutes of physical activity each week. Just 23 percent met the recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week. The findings are particularly troubling not only because of how effective walking is at reducing arthritis pain, but also because of the other healthy aging benefits it offers. 

"Walking is a low-impact, acceptable, convenient, inexpensive, feasible, and proven physical activity intervention that can help reduce arthritis pain, improve function and move persons with arthritis along the continuum of physical activity, getting them closer to meeting the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans," the CDC report stated.

More options available
If walking isn't your ideal exercise, but you're still looking to boost your level of physical activity to reduce arthritis pain, there are a number of other activities that can offer similar benefits, according to Harvard Medical School. Most notably, low-impact activities such as swimming, cycling and water-based aerobics are among the best options. Not only will they build endurance and improve balance, but the increased strength and range-of-motion they offer will reduce the effects of arthritis. 

Does diet play a role?
It's no secret that what a person eats can help manage a wide variety of conditions, and that includes arthritis. Specifically, foods that are high in antioxidants, such as fruit, fish, whole grains and olive oil, can help reduce the inflammation that is often tied to arthritis. In fact, a recent study found that people who followed this style of diet had about 15 percent less pain than those who did not.