Is arthritis pain getting in the way of regular exercise or are the barriers more of a psychological game? A team of researchers at the University of Saskatchewan is seeking participants to take part in a study to determine how people deal with the psychological challenge of exercising while enduring the physical symptoms of arthritis.
“Many arthritis sufferers avoid physical exercise because of the pain associated with the disease, although research has shown health benefits of exercise for arthritis, including decreased pain, increased flexibility, overall fitness, and improved quality of life,” says Nancy Gyurcsik, associate professor in the College of Kinesiology at the U of S.
As many as 4.5 million Canadians have arthritis, according to the Arthritis Society of Canada, that makes it one of the most common types of chronic disease.
“People with arthritis avoid exercise for a number of reasons, some avoid it due to fear of pain or injury, and others avoid it for the same reason many people without arthritis do - not having the time or not wanting to make a lifestyle change,” said Gyurcsik. People who are physically active are healthier, happier and live longer than those who are inactive and unfit, and this is especially true for people with arthritis.”
Early results of the study are showing that people with arthritis who meet the recommended exercise levels of 150 minutes per week do not differ in their reports of arthritis pain from those who do not meet the recommended level of exercise. However, they do differ in their levels of pain acceptance and pain anxiety – or in other words, their psychological reactions to their pain. This means that regular exercisers are more willing to accept that they will have some arthritis-related pain and still engage in exercise, and as a result have less anxiety about the exercise making their pain worse.
“Given that no cure exists for arthritis, people need to learn to self-manage their disease." said Gyurcsik. "We hope to teach people with arthritis how to develop a psychological tool kit, so to speak, that they can use to stick with their exercise plans.”
Anyone interested in participating in the study can email arthritis.study.UofS@usask.ca or call 306-966-8659 for more information. This study is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation. All inquiries are confidential, and all data provided by participants is kept confidential and anonymous.