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A landmark government study suggests nearly one in two people (46%) will develop painful knee osteoarthritis over their lifetime, with the highest risk among those who are obese. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the study underscores the immediate need for the public to understand what they can do to reduce the tremendous pain, disability and cost associated with arthritis.

To reduce the pain and disability of arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation recommends the following: 

Arthritis Foundation 09 08

Exercise - A Safe And Effective New Treatment For Knee Osteoarthritis

Now there's scientific proof that exercise can be a safe and effective treatment option for knee osteoarthritis - good news for the millions of disabled suffering from this degenerative joint disease. A clinical study, funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), suggests that people with osteoarthritis of the knee who exercise in moderation have less pain, reduced disability, and improved physical performance.

"In the past, opinion was divided as to whether exercise or rest was the better treatment for osteoarthritis. This study clearly comes down on the side of exercise," says Stanley Slater, M.D., deputy associate director of the NIA Geriatrics Program. 

The Fitness Arthritis and Seniors Trial (FAST) results compared improvement measurements in people who participated in either a moderate intensity aerobic exercise training program or a moderate intensity resistance exercise training program with a health education program. The results showed a modest but consistent improvement in pain relief, disability, and physical performance for those who participated in the aerobic and resistance training programs compared to the control group.

"The findings are significant because they show that exercise over a long period of time is safe as well as beneficial for older people with knee osteoarthritis - they get relief from arthritis symptoms plus all the other health benefits of exercise. We hope the study will be a good model for people with other chronic illnesses and conditions," says principal investigator Walter H. Ettinger, Jr., M.D., Internal Medicine and Public Health Sciences, Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Wake Forest University. 

According to William B. Applegate, M.D., professor of Preventive Medicine, University of Tennessee, Memphis, the findings are also important because heretofore most experts thought resistance exercise was more beneficial than aerobic exercise in patients with knee osteoarthritis. FAST indicates that both types of regimens are effective.

NIH / National Institute on Aging 12 / 96

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