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Fend Off Arthritis in Women
By MARGIE MASON 04.03.07
Get moving, Grandma! Exercise isn't just
about improving your heart and fighting flab that comes with aging. It
may also be the answer to preventing stiff, achy joints that can lead
to debilitating arthritis. An Australian study suggests the more time
older women spend exercising, the better their chances are of staying
pain-free from one of the biggest chronic conditions plaguing developed
exercising as little as one hour and 15 minutes a week now can make a
difference over the next three years, according to findings recently
published in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy.
think the results are suggesting that you should just become this
maniac exerciser," said lead author Kristiann Heesch from the
University of Queensland, Australia. "What it does suggest is that just
adding some walking and moderate activity to your life can make a big
Doctors have long encouraged exercise among aging patients to keep
joints flexible, muscles strong and to keep off weight, which is a
leading risk factor for arthritis. This is the first study that focuses
specifically on middle-aged and older women who did not have a history
of stiff and painful joints. It looked solely at pain and symptoms
reported by more than 8,700 Australian women over a three-year period,
and could offer a vital clue about prevention.
their 70s who exercised 75 minutes a week reported fewer symptoms of
arthritis than those who did less, while more spry women who were
active at least 2 1/2 hours weekly had even less pain in the three
years that followed. Although there appeared to be a direct correlation
between exercise and lower joint pain, the reasons why were less clear.
exercise directly benefits the joints. Maybe exercise makes you lose
weight and the latter benefits the joints. Maybe exercise causes pain
sensing receptors to become less sensitive so one feels less pain,"
said Dr. John Hardin, chief scientific officer at the Atlanta-based
Arthritis Foundation, who did not participate in the study.
Conversely, exercise had no effect on
arthritis symptoms reported by middle-aged women. Heesch said it's
unclear why the results differed among the two age groups.
findings also contradict some earlier research, which found no direct
link between fitness and arthritis. The Australian study, published
last week, focused on specific age groups of fairly healthy women
predominantly from rural areas who had not been diagnosed with
arthritis, which may partially explain the difference, Heesch said.
could put out a pill that would solve a lot of problems, it would be
physical activity, but we can't wrap it up into a little pill and give
it to people," she said. "Particularly with the baby boomers getting
older, there's going to be a lot more griping and need to address
She said walking, swimming, yoga, tai chi and even some weight training
were all great ways for older women to exercise after getting their
doctors' approval. More women than men suffer from arthritis, and the
risk increases greatly with age.
that the study showed change in a short time speaks to the fact that
exercise shows benefit quickly and is another reason to encourage
people that exercise has a payback sooner than many people think," said
Dr. Patience White, chief public health officer at the Arthritis
five American adults has been diagnosed with arthritis - half of those
over age 75 have reported it - costing billions of dollars each year.
In both the United States and Australia, it is the No. 1 cause of
Mason covers medical issues for The Associated Press across the
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