Can High-Intensity Training Help Ease Arthritis Pain?

exercise-legArthritis is a chronic illness that causes inflammation in joints which causes weakness and loss of movement. Arthritis sufferers often also have reduced endurance and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. While arthritis affects only about one percent of the population and does affect about three times as many women as it does men. It mainly affects adults but can occur in children as well.

Previously there had been little documentation of how exercise affected arthritic joints, but a recent study shed some light on this. The study was a pilot to see if the idea was worth researching in depth and included only 18 women between the ages of 20 to 49. While it is too early to conclude if recommended training programs for arthritis patients should be changed, the study did suggest that it would be a good idea.

New Study

The new study involved participants undergoing 10 weeks of hard training on a spinning bike. The participants warmed up for ten minutes at 70 percent of their maximum pulse, and then did four repetitions of high intensity - 85-95 per cent of max pulse - four-minute intervals. The break between each interval was about three minutes, at 70 percent of max pulse. The total workout session lasted about 35 minutes.

As a result of this training period, the participants saw a small reduction in body mass index (BMI), body fat and waist measurement, as well as an increase in muscle mass.

"Previously, studies have shown that moderate intensity workout sessions can help improve endurance without inducing pain or inflammation or damaging joints," says Anja Bye, researcher at the K.G. Jebsen Centre for Exercise in Medicine Cardiac Exercise Research Group at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Numerous studies show that high-intensity interval training is much more effective for improving endurance than moderate intensity training. This is true regardless if you're sick or healthy, young or old. We wanted to see if patients with arthritis could handle high intensity training and see the same positive effects. Rather, we saw a tendency for there to be less inflammation, at least as measured by the inflammation marker CRP, and the participants of the study experienced a solid increase maximum oxygen intake, meaning that they reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease. The women who participated in the study found this to be a good, effective method of training, and are mostly very motivated to continue because of the progress they've seen."

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