Conducted by University of Missouri researchers, the study found that patients with arthritis who learned exercise habits through physical activity interventions reported decreases in pain and increases in physical functioning, compared to patients who did not participate in interventions.
"Many researchers examine the effectiveness of exercise classes to encourage people with arthritis to start exercising, but these studies don't examine what the classes are teaching people and if those people continue exercising after the class is over," said Marian Minor, professor in the MU Department of Physical Therapy in the School of Health Professions.
He added: "All exercise programs should include educational components that teach people how to stay active for life. We know from other studies that exercise reduces pain and improves physical functioning and mental health, but if people stop exercising, the benefits will go away."
Patients who were exposed to educational components along with exercise reported increased physical activity levels.
Vicki Conn, lead author of the study, professor and associate dean of research in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, said that the patients also received additional benefits, including increased muscle strength and better mental health.
"Educational components can be incorporated into exercise programs in any setting that are currently suggested by physicians, nurses and other care providers. We found various tactics for educating patients that are effective, including one-on-one discussions with care providers or group interventions, providing self-monitoring advice, providing feedback to subjects regarding their performance, goal-setting, and problem-solving," said Conn.
A meta-analysis incorporating data from 4,111 participants in 28 studies was conducted, and the participants included people with osteoarthritis, knee arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The researchers made it a point to include studies that measured physical activity after the completion of the intervention.
"Health care providers have a responsibility to educate patients and help them maintain effective physical activity habits. It is important that people diagnosed with arthritis have someone to look to for education and help with managing their symptoms. This is a public health priority, and health providers need to teach people to take control of their own health and improve their lives," said Minor.
The study, "Physical Activity Interventions Among Adults with Arthritis: Meta-Analysis of Outcomes," was published in Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism.