Low-Impact Exercise Decreases Pain in Older Adults with Arthritis

Low-impact exercise can improve mobility, enhance quality of life, and decrease pain in older adults with arthritis and other muscle and joint conditions, according to the results of a recent study.1

In 2011, the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) created a low-impact, culturally-tailored exercise program aiming to improve musculoskeletal health in older Chinese adults. The program consisted of exercise classes taking place once a week for eight weeks. They included floor and chair exercises and incorporated Chinese breathing techniques and meditation as well.

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Participants were given a survey before classes began and again after they ended, evaluating pain, physical function, stiffness, fatigue, and balance. Overall, 256 participants completed the survey over 5 years.

Overall, 84% of responders reported less pain, 95% reported less stiffness, 92% reported less fatigue, and 95% reported improved balance.

"The study results are consistent with the experience of rheumatologists and with prior studies showing that exercise, even of mild degree, helps with pain," the researchers concluded. "Getting people up and moving does appear to help with mood, pain and overall functioning."2

—Michael Potts


  1. Wu MD, Ologhobo T, Wiesel R, et al. Effects of a culturally tailored low-impact exercise program for Chinese older adults in NYC [poster presented at the 2016 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting]. November 1, 2016. Denver, Colorado.
  2. Hospital For Special Surgery. Motivation to move: study finds mild exercise helps decrease pain and improve activity level in older adults [press release]. New York, New York. November 1, 2016. https://www.hss.edu/newsroom_motivation-to-move-study-finds-mild-exercise-helps-decrease-pain-and-improve-activity-levels-in-older-adults.asp. Accessed November 3, 2016.