We all know that getting plenty of activity can make you healthy in all kinds of amazing ways: A stronger heart, lower blood pressure, calorie burning, we've heard it all before. So how about this? Exercise can actually relieve pain from arthritis. And the harder you work out, the better. Okay: That is new.
Researchers in Norway asked 18 women with two different types of chronic arthritis to do half-hour, high-intensity interval spin sessions twice weekly for about 10 weeks while tracking their fitness, inflammation markers, and pain levels. Not surprisingly the women got a lot fitter: Their stamina increased and they lost weight, shed body fat, and trimmed their waists. Key indicators of inflammation (these rise in the presence of stiffness, pain, and swelling) declined, as well, according to the study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
Even though this was a small pilot study, it was one of the first to suggest this vigorous of exercise was safe and beneficial for women with these types of arthritis, explains study author Anja Bye, PhD, senior researcher in the Cardiac Exercise Research Group at The Norwegian University of Science and Technology. She was surprised to find the women could handle the demanding workouts: "All of the women in the study were capable of participating in this type of high-intensity exercise program without any negative side-effects."
Importantly, says Bye, during the 10 weeks of rigorous exercise, the women had no increase in biomarkers that indicate arthritic activity, pain, inflammation, or joint damage. The bottom line is that the high-intensity exercise program was safe for everyone in the studyâ€”even those at the high end of the age range, Bye said. Larger studies are needed to confirm the findings, she says. But Bye feels confident that people with chronic arthritis can tackle interval workoutsâ€”as long as they have their doctor's blessingâ€”and gain fitness, heart protection, and relief from pain.