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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Moderate exercise can help older people reduce the pain and disability associated with the most common form of arthritis in the knee, according to a recent medical study.

 The study was conducted by the University of Tennessee-Memphis College of Medicine and Wake Forest University’s Bowman-Gray Medical School in North Carolina.

 Dr. William Applegate, UT-Memphis professor of preventative medicine, said the 18-month study looked at 439 people, age 60 and older, with disabling knee osteoarthritis. The National Institute on Aging sponsored the study.

 Results published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed improvements in pain relief, disability and knee function in those who exercised compared to those who did not, Applegate said.

 Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is caused by wear in the joints, Applegate said. Doctors have debated whether rest, simple aerobic exercise, such as walking, or resistance exercise, such as weightlifting, was better treatment for knee osteoarthritis, he said.

 The study shows that moderate exercise, either walking or resistance, is more beneficial than being sedentary, Applegate said.

 “The medical approach to knee osteoarthritis in older persons has just been to give analgesics or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to take the symptoms away, but that doesn’t do anything for leg muscles and continued mobility of the joint,” Applegate said. “Our studies showed that people in both exercise groups improved not only in terms of symptoms but also in terms of function.

 “If older people who have some arthritis in the knee continue to do exercises they can tolerate, under the discretion of their physician, they’re much more likely to maintain a much higher level of function over a longer period of time.”


 Contact: Dr. William Applegate (901-448-5903)