Few women with arthritis of the hip may be getting the exercise they need to prevent disability. Moderate-intensity activity can help ease pain, boost function and stave off disability in people with osteoarthritis and a few studies have suggested physical inactivity is common among osteoarthritis sufferers, and may be linked to worse pain, poor health and psychosocial problems.

Identifying inactive patients is important because they are at risk for disability and are expected to benefit most from increasing their physical activity.

To investigate, the researchers measured physical activity in 65 women with severe osteoarthritis of the hip. They found major differences in activity levels among the participants, with the most active women spending nearly eight times as much time on the move as the most sedentary participants. Just nine of the women spent more than 30 minutes a day in moderate-intensity activity. Twenty-eight patients, or 38 percent, were classified as inactive. Compared to the rest of the participants, these women spent 5.6 minutes in moderate activity daily vs. 22.9 minutes.

Among women with the severest arthritis, those who were unemployed were more likely to be inactive. But arthritis severity did not influence the likelihood of inactivity in women who were employed. It's not clear, Hirata and his team note, whether employment itself helped these women to stay active, or whether their higher levels of activity allowed them to function well enough stay on the job.