Mary, a retired vicar from south London, has never looked back since taking part in Arthritis Research UK’s osteoarthritis of the knee and exercise trial at King’s College, London. She enjoyed the experience so much that she persuaded her husband to join too, and made sure her local GP surgery started recruiting patients.
Mary, now 76, was still taking church services and helping in the church as a volunteer when she saw an article in her local paper about the exercise trial. ‘It was very cold in the church and I had really sore knees so I got in touch with the professor who was running the study’ she says.
‘I can’t tell you the benefit I got from the exercise sessions. I did the individual sessions – a couple of warm-up exercises and then a go on the bike. There was a variety of exercises: resistance work with an elastic band, a wobble board, strengthening exercises, and up and down steps twice a week for six weeks.’
Mary says she immediately started to notice the difference and didn’t feel any pain in her knees for about six months. ‘I carried on doing the exercises after the trial ended – I’d go up and down stairs, taking the grandchildren to school and do as much walking as possible.
'When I get up I flex my knees before I start the day; I’ve developed some good habits and I’m always on the move. I haven’t felt pain in my knees for ages. When it’s bad I force myself to have a little walk, maybe have one paracetamol and I take glucosamine as well.
'Exercises give me the confidence to move about – that’s the main thing. The trial has been wonderful for me. It’s changed my life.'
‘I used to run a pop-in club for elderly people every Thursday in the church hall, and the physiotherapist from King’s came along and gave talks and got them all doing things and talking about the benefits of exercise,’ she adds.
‘They assumed that if you have a bad knee the more you exercise the worse it was going to be, so she explained to them how important it is for the quadriceps muscles to be strong. The reason why people don’t walk about and do much is because the quad muscles are weak.’
Mary and husband John now live in retirement apartments in Bromley, and she still does her best to spread the word about the wonders of exercise to other residents. ‘They think I’m a bit potty, but some of the ladies who live near me are housebound and I’m sure they’d benefit from exercise.'
The Arthritis Research UK trial Mary took part in showed that exercise, self-management and active coping strategies are effective in relieving pain in older adults.