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Exercise may help arthritis, no matter the diet

Weight alone is not what exacerbates the pain of osteoarthritis - new research suggests that exercise, even when not paired with a low-fat diet or weight loss, improved arthritis symptoms in obese mice.

The research, completed by scientists at Duke University Medical Center, found that obese, arthritic mice who exercised but continued eating a high-fat diet showed improved joint conditions.

"Ideally, it would be best to be fit and lose a little weight, but this shows that exercise alone can improve the health of your joints," said senior author Dr. Farshid Guilak, professor of orthopaedic surgery at Duke.

The Duke researchers sought out to determine whether a high-fat diet induces knee arthritis and whether exercise may protect against arthritis pain. When the mice - which were fed a high-fat food that caused them to gain weight rapidly - started to exercise, the negative effects of the diet diminished. Glucose improved and the inflammatory response was disrupted, easing the development of the disease.

"This shows that if you are obese, it's better to exercise," Guilak said. "Sometimes pain can be a barrier to starting exercise, but if you overcome it, in the long term, it's better."