(HealthDay News) -- Exercise programs can help ease arthritis symptoms, says a U.S. study that evaluated the effects of an Arthritis Foundation regimen.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study included 346 people, average age 70, with self-reported arthritis. Some were assigned to a group that followed the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program, formerly called People with Arthritis Can Exercise (PACE), consisting of basic and advanced exercise classes twice a week for an hour a week for eight weeks. Others were put in a control group that did not take part in the exercise program.
After eight weeks, people in the exercise group showed significant improvements in pain, fatigue and managing arthritis. The pain and fatigue improvements were still evident six months after completing the exercise program.
The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program emphasizes range-of-motion and low-resistance exercises, but the researchers found that people who completed the program also had increased strength in their upper and lower extremities. This suggested that strength training -- a minor component of the program -- is effective.
People in the exercise program did not show any increase in exercise endurance.
The study was published in the January issue of Arthritis Care & Research.
"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 researchers concluded.
Further studies should be conducted to determine if offering the program more than twice a week and for longer periods offers additional benefits, they added.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about arthritis.