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Arthritis Patients Stay Strong After Training

Tue Aug 3, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The benefit of an exercise program in terms of stronger muscles seems to be long lasting.

Follow-up of patients with rheumatoid arthritis shows that muscle strength gained during an earlier exercise program was maintained three years later, Finnish researchers report.

Dr. A. Hakkinen and colleagues at Jyvaskyla Central Hospital randomly assigned 70 patients with early rheumatoid arthritis to home-based strength training involving all muscle groups, or to motion and stretching exercises. They were also encouraged to take part in aerobic activities two to three times per week.

To prevent arthritis-induced loss of muscle strength and muscle mass, "restoration and improvement of muscle reserves should be started from the very onset of disease," the researchers write in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

In the 62 patients who completed two years of the study, muscle strength increased twice as much in the muscle-training group as in the motion group.

All patients were then asked to participate in self-monitored strength training. Follow-up three years later of 59 available participants showed that the muscle strength improvements were maintained.

Bone mineral density remained constant and joint damage assessed by X-rays remained low.

The researchers conclude that people with early rheumatoid arthritis can safely participate in "individually tailored, moderate intensity physical activity."

SOURCE: Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, August 2004.

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