However, less than 10 minutes of daily exercise could be enough to prevent the condition leading to a disability, according to new research.
While arthritis is an umbrella term for joint-related conditions, it is osteoarthritis which is the most common in the UK, accounting for nearly nine million of cases.
Osteoarthritis affects cartilage in the joints such as the hands, spine, knees and hips. It causes a painful swelling and bone-on-bone rubbing which compromises sufferers’ movement.
But walking briskly for just one hour a week could be enough for sufferers to “maintain their independence”.
This is according to a study of more than 1,500 adults, which was conducted by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
It is enough to reduce sufferers’ risk of mobility disability (defined as walking slowed than one metre a second) by 85%.
Active living disability risk – which means difficulty performing tasks such as bathing, dressing, and walking across a room – is also reduced by 45%.
“This is less than 10 minutes a day for people to maintain their independence. It’s very doable,” said lead author Dorothy Dunlop.
“This minimum threshold may motivate inactive older adults to begin their path toward a physically active lifestyle with the wide range of health benefits promoted by physical activity.”
Meanwhile, adult arthritis sufferers who struggled to perform this hour of exercise faced much more severe symptoms four years after the study began.
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Almost a quarter (24%) walked too slowly to safety cross the street after this time, and 23% experienced trouble performing their morning routine.
Exercising with arthritis
Whether it’s brisk walking or gentler exercise such as yoga or swimming, exercise is important for those living with arthritis, stresses Zoe Chivers, Head of Services at Versus Arthritis, a charity formed in 2018 from a merger of Arthritis Care and Arthritis Research UK.
“Arthritis causes pain and swelling across the body, making everyday tasks such as getting out of bed or getting dressed difficult,” she tells Yahoo UK.
“When you’re in that much pain, the thought of exercise can seem unachievable and many people are afraid to exercise because they believe it may cause further damage to their joints. This is not the case.
“Gentle exercise such as yoga, swimming and walking can help to keep joints healthy, build strength and reduce symptoms of arthritis. As this research suggests, doing a small amount of gentle exercise that’s in your comfort zone, can be hugely beneficial.
“You shouldn’t need a doctor’s advice to get started. However, if you’re finding it difficult then a GP, physiotherapist or a personal fitness trainer at your local gym should be able to give you good advice and support.”
While exercise is clearly an important factor in reducing arthritis symptoms, it isn’t the only consideration. Sufferers can also try following an anti-inflammatory diet to help relieve joint stiffness and pain.
“Chronic low-level inflammation has been linked to many diseases including type 2 diabetes, allergies, autoimmune conditions, heart disease, cancer, and stroke,” Alissa Rumsey, a New York City-based dietitian and nutrition therapist, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Diet, exercise, stress, and smoking all contribute to chronic inflammation.”
For those looking for help and support for living with arthritis, head to the Versus Arthritis website or consult their helpline on 0800 5200 520.