Arthritis sufferers lack physical activity: study

Research has shown that people with arthritis who engage in regular activity or exercise report fewer limitations in their day-to-day lives. However, many of those who suffer from arthritis feel that the struggle of their daily lives is exhausting enough on  its own and therefore do not participate in additional physical activity.

Dr. Monique Gignac, a senior scientist and associate scientific director at the Institute for Work & Health (IWH), led a study with eight focus groups involving 24 women and 16 men ranging in age from 29 to 72 years, in order to look at the relationship between arthritis, work and personal life roles. All study participants have been recently employed and had either osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis.

“They pointed to the fatigue that resulted from juggling the demands of arthritis, employment and personal life as an important barrier to physical activity,” says Gignac, who is also affiliated with the Arthritis Community Research and Evaluation Unit at the Toronto Western Research Institute. “For many, arthritis threatened their ability to hang on to their jobs, so jobs were given priority over exercise when it came time to deciding where to put their energy.”

Gignac found that although study participants were aware of the benefits of physical activity and exercise in relation to their arthritis, they didn’t know when or how to go about implementing physical activity or exercise in their lives. This issue was exacerbated by the episodic and unpredictable nature of arthritis pain.

“They just didn’t know if physical activity would make things better or worse, or what activities they should do or for how long,” she said.

Couple this fear with the anxiety people have about being forced to take time away from work due to their pain – an option the majority of study participants found unacceptable as they cited work as their first priority.

“We need to find ways to help working adults with arthritis tailor their physical activity in light of changing pain, energy and fears of exacerbating their symptoms,” said Gignac.

(Canadian Chiropractor – July/August 2014. Pg. 8 “Workplace”)