World Arthritis Day: living better, aging well

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Posted on behalf of Abigail Jones

How can people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases enjoy an optimal quality of life?

This is the topic addressed by campaigns and activities forming part of World Arthritis Day, which will be marked on Saturday 12th October.  This day, which was established in 1996 by Arthritis and Rheumatism International, aims to raise awareness of the issues affecting people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) and to ensure all people with RMDs and their caregivers are alerted to the vast support network available to them.

Over the next year the World Arthritis Day website, which is supported and managed by EULAR (the European League Against Rheumatism), will be running a series of features covering different issues of importance to people growing up and growing older with RMDs. They highlight exercise as an essential activity for coping with the changes associated with the aging process, and encourage people with RMDs to ‘Get Active!’.

Qigong is one form of gentle exercise featured in the World Arthritis Day list of suitable physical activities. This traditional Chinese practice of meditative movement, focusing on posture and breathing techniques, was found to significantly improve pain, sleep, physical and mental function in fibromyalgia patients in a randomised controlled trial published in Arthritis Research & Therapy. Fibromyalgia affects approximately 2-3% of the population and is characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain of greater than 3 months duration.

More rigorous exercise is recommended for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, a complex autoimmune rheumatic disease characterised by joint and organ damage.  In a recently published randomised controlled trial, researchers from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, found that a supervised exercise program consisting of twice-weekly moderate intensity sessions (e.g. treadmill aerobic exercises), was safe and effective at ameliorating the cardiovascular effects of the disease.

In addition to promoting healthy living, World Arthritis Day also marks the launch of an international competition called ‘Vision 2043’, inviting the submission of creative ideas, innovations or grand plans that can help transform the lives of people with RMDs. Visit the World Arthritis Day website for more information about this competition and to read about activities that will be happening around the world to mark this important day.