A randomised controlled trial has revealed that the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program improves the condition of arthritis patients significantly.
Formerly called People with Arthritis Can Exercise (PACE), the program aims at managing arthritis through exercise.
Reported in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, this was the first randomised controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of the program, which consisted of exercise classes at basic and advanced levels.
Dr. Leigh F. Callahan, an expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, revealed that the she recruited 346 patients with an average age of 70 for the trials.
She said that the participants into two groupsóan intervention group and a control group. Participants in the intervention group met twice a week for one hour for eight weeks, while the control group was offered the program after eight weeks.
Three and six months after completing the program, the intervention group also completed self-report assessments.
Visual analog scales, tools that enable patients to gauge the intensity of sensations, were used to measure pain, stiffness and fatigue. Physical function was evaluated by using self-reporting and performance-based measures like lifting weights, while psychosocial outcomes were assessed using four different scales.
The researchers found that the intervention group had significant improvements in pain, fatigue, and managing arthritis at 8 weeks, and maintained improvements in pain and fatigue at 6 months.
Although the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program focuses mainly on range-of-motion and low-resistance exercises, a separate analysis showed that participants who completed the program had increased strength in their upper and lower extremities.
Based on this finding, the researchers came to the conclusion that strength training, a minor component of the program, was effective.
Although the Arthritis Foundation Exercise program did not increase exercise endurance of the participants, the researchers said that it was not surprising given the nature of the program.
There were some participants who maintained improvement in their symptoms six months after completing the program, but still reported decline in their self-efficacy for exercise. However, participants who continued the program at home independently continued to derive its benefits.
The researchers believe that a decline in self-efficacy for exercise at 6 months may be related to the fact that participants understood the benefits of exercise, yet felt less confident without the class structure, frequency and social support.
"Our findings indicate that the basic 8-week PACE (Arthritis Foundation Exercise) Program is a safe program for sedentary older individuals with arthritis to start exercising without exacerbating their symptoms," the authors conclude, adding that symptoms actually improved.
The authors, however, noted that it was yet to be determined whether offering the program more than twice a week or for longer periods would provide additional benefits.