According to a new study, adults with lower-extremity joint symptoms like aching, pain or stiffness who get at least one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise every week are more likely to be free of disability after four years than those who do not meet this exercise goal.
The study was published Monday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Researchers at Northwestern University analysed data from more than 1,500 adults in the Osteoarthritis Initiative from four areas: Baltimore; Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; and Pawtucket, Rhode Island. All the adults had pain from osteoarthritis in lower-extremity joints such as the hips, knees, and ankles, but weren’t disabled.
The patients, aged between 49 and 83 had lower-extremity joint problems, but were all considered disability-free at the beginning of the study. To measure their levels of activity during the study over a period of four years, the patients were monitored with accelerometers.
“After monitoring physical activity, participants were interviewed every other year over four years,” Dorothy Dunlop, lead author of the study and professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told CNN. The results showed that people who got at least 56 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week had an 86% decreased risk of being mobility-disabled compared with those who got less exercise.
“Even though it’s well known physical activity can help prevent disability, for many people, they’re just inactive, and it’s daunting to get started,” Dunlop told USA Today.
“The more active you are, the more health benefits you get,” she went on to say. “But if you can start to do at least 10 minutes a day of moderate activity, that may help you hold on to your abilities to stay independent.”
Previous research has shown that physical activity prevents disability, but this is the first systematic study to look at the minimum time commitment required to maintain the ability to live independently.