Kristiann Heesch and colleagues at the University of Queensland, Australia examined data on middle-aged (48-55) and older (72-79) women collected using surveys over three years as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Excluding women who reported arthritis symptoms at the beginning of the study, the authors looked at those who began reporting stiff or painful joints ‘often’ and how much exercise they undertook.
The results suggest that for women in the older age bracket, doing a little over an hour of moderate physical activity each week will lessen your chances of developing frequent arthritis symptoms in the next three years. Pushing that up to 2 ½ hours per week is even more likely to prevent arthritis symptoms appearing. These results were not seen for the middle-aged group.
A debilitating health problem which is more likely to strike as we get older and affects more women than men, arthritis is almost as common as cardiovascular disease in Australia, affecting 17% of the population. By 2020 this figure is set to approach US levels, where arthritis is the most prevalent chronic condition for middle aged and older people, affecting over a fifth of the population. Exercising into old age could ensure movement without stiffness and pain for longer, and could reduce the burden of arthritis on the healthcare system.
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