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Long-Term Exercise Therapy Resolves Ethnic Differences in Baseline Health Status in Older Adults with Knee Osteoarthritis


  • Presented as a poster at the Annual Meeting of the American Geriatrics Society at Las Vegas, Nevada, May 19, 2004.

Address correspondence to Capri G. Foy, 2000 West First Street, Office 250, Winston-Salem, NC 27104. E-mail:


Objectives: To determine whether ethnicity was associated with baseline and 18-month health status within a merged sample of older adults with knee osteoarthritis (OA) from the Fitness Arthritis in Seniors Trial and the Arthritis, Diet, and Activity Promotion Trial.

Design: Cross-sectional and prospective study.

Setting: Center-based exercise therapy at two universities.

Participants: A total of 584 African-American (n=143) and Caucasian-American (n=441) adults aged 60 and older with knee OA were examined for baseline and 18-month health status.

Measurements: Six-minute-walk distance, 36-item Short Form General Health Scale (SF-36 GHS), and Physical Functioning Questionnaire index score. Ethnicity was obtained via self-report.

Results: Analyses of covariance testing the effect of ethnicity, adjusted for demographic and health status covariates, revealed significant effects for ethnicity upon baseline 6-minute-walk distance and SF-36 GHS, with Caucasian Americans reporting better scores (P=.001), although these differences were not significant after 18 months of exercise therapy.

Conclusion: Ethnicity and baseline function are important factors that should not be overlooked in knee OA research involving exercise interventions. Moreover, not only should physical activity be recommended to improve functional outcomes, it may also be a useful strategy in reducing health disparities.