Arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability and those who suffer from it tend to be less fit than their peers.
Leigh F. Callahan, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, studied 346 people with self-reported arthritis, average age of 70-years. Participants were divided into 2 groups. In one group the participants followed the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program (AFEP), which consists of basic and advanced range-of-motion and low-resistance exercises. They met for one hour, twice a week, for 8 weeks. The second group, the control group, did not perform exercises on a regular basis, but were offered the exercise program after the initial 8 weeks of the study.
Physical function changes were self-reporting as well as performance based measures such as lifting weights. The exercise group had significant improvements in pain relief, fatigue, and arthritis management after just 8 weeks. Those who continued with the AFEP program for 6 months maintained their improvements. Even though the AFEP has a minor strength training component the participants also showed improvement in their upper and lower extremities.
Participants who continued with the AFEP program at home, after the conclusion of the study, continued to maintain their improvements. Unfortunately, overall commitment to the program was not seen despite its benefits. Researchers note that decline in the use of the AFEP at home may be due to lack of confidence without the class structure, frequency, and social support.