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Arthritis Health Center

CDC Links Obesity, Arthritis, and Lack of Exercise

Study Shows Obese Adults Who Have Arthritis Are More Likely to Skip Exercise
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 19, 2011 -- Obese adults with arthritis are 44% more likely to be physically inactive than obese people who do not suffer from the painful disease that causes inflammation and stiffness of the joints, the CDC says in a new report.

According to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for May 20, arthritis is common in adults who are obese. And arthritis-related joint pain may reduce or discourage physical activity among obese adults, the report says.

The report says arthritis affects 35.6% of obese adults in the U.S. and that it may be a "potential barrier" that prevents the exercise that could lead to weight loss and help make people feel better.

The CDC calls for more self-management, education, and physical activity programs for adults with arthritis.

The CDC report is based on survey data from the 2007 and 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 50 states, Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It says 9.3% of respondents had both obesity and arthritis, while 16.9% had obesity only and about 17% had arthritis only.

The report also found that:

  • Women were more likely to have both arthritis and obesity or arthritis only.
  • Older age was a risk factor for a higher prevalence of both arthritis and obesity.
  • Non-Hispanic blacks had a significantly higher prevalence of both obesity and arthritis compared to other ethnic groups.
  • Non-Hispanic whites had a significantly higher prevalence of arthritis only.
  • Higher education levels were associated with a lower prevalence of obesity and arthritis, obesity alone, and arthritis alone.

The CDC says the prevalence of physical inactivity was highest among those with both arthritis and obesity at 22.7%, compared with 16.1% for those with arthritis only and 13.5% with obesity only.

According to the CDC, 50 million Americans have arthritis and 72 million are obese; about one in three adults with obesity also has arthritis.

The agency says doctors and other health care providers who recommend physical activity for weight loss and weight maintenance should ask patients about symptoms of arthritis, such as pain and functional limitations, and then devise appropriate exercise regimens for them.

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