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Articles » Facts About Arthritis: CDC-OC

Facts About Arthritis: CDC-OC

Article title: Facts About Arthritis: CDC-OC

Conditions: Arthritis, osteoarthritis

Source: CDC-OC

Facts About Arthritis

May 9, 1997

  • Arthritis and other rheumatic conditions are chronic and disabling, and affect an estimated 40 million Americans. Nearly 50% of persons 65 years of age have arthritis; younger people have a lower risk of having arthritis but still comprise half of all people affected.
  • Arthritis limits the activity of over 7 million people and is second only to heart disease as a cause of work disability. Recent estimates place the direct medical cost of arthritis at $15.2 billion per year, with total costs of medical care and lost wages exceeding $64 billion.
  • Despite recent scientific evidence that regular physical activity has significant physical and mental health benefits (such as outlined in the 1996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health), millions of Americans remain physically inactive.
  • Findings of CDC research using the National Health Interviews Survey of about 120,000 Americans, indicate that persons with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions are significantly less active than the populations as a whole. The rates of physical activity among people with arthritis may be lower because of the mistaken recommendations in the past that they should not exercise because it would damage their joints.
  • The research indicated that persons with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions were significantly more likely to report no leisure time physical activity at all, and had significantly lower rates of vigorous physical activity.
  • The Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health found for persons with osteoarthritis (a degenerative joint disease) that "regular physical activity is necessary for maintaining normal muscle strength, joint structure, and joint function...and was not associated with joint damage or development of osteoarthritis and may beneficial for many people with arthritis." Other studies have found that persons with arthritis have experienced improvement in muscle function and other important health benefits from exercise training. This was true even for older adults with arthritis.
  • People with arthritis should see their doctor or physical or occupational therapist prior to increasing their level of physical activity. Both patients and health care providers can get advice and help from the Arthritis Foundation by calling toll-free at 1­800­283­7800, or by accessing their Internet site at

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