Objectives To examine the effectiveness and feasibility of a community based aquatic exercise programme for elders with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Design Prospective intervention study, with a before-and-after design.
Setting Community elders.
Participants Twenty elders aged 65 years or above (mean, 72 years) attending four Elderly Health Centres of the Department of Health who had suffered from osteoarthritis of the knee for at least 3 years and with mild-to-severe knee pain. Intervention A 10-week aquatic exercise programme designed and led by physiotherapists.
Main outcome measures Range of motion and power of extension of the knees, functional reach test, repeated sit-to-stand test, and the Chinese Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales 2.
Results There was an improvement in the median range of knee flexion from 115° to 125° (P<0.01) and the median strength of the quadriceps from 9 kg to 21 kg (P<0.001). The median score of the functional reach test increased from 20 cm to 28 cm (P<0.001) and the repeated sit-to-stand test from 10 to 14 repetitions (P<0.001). Also, there was an improvement in the mobility level (P<0.01), walking and bending ability of the trunk (P<0.05), levels of pain (P<0.01) and mood (P<0.01), and the total score (P<0.01) in the Chinese Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales 2.
Conclusions Physiotherapist-designed aquatic exercise has definite benefits in terms of physical and psychosocial functioning, and should be promoted as one of the strategies to enhance long-term self management of community elders with knee osteoarthritis.