Exercising now can help prevent this in old age
We all know being active is important for our health, but did you know staying active can affect your independence later in life?
Continuing to exercise as you age can help combat some of the “wear and tear” our bodies experience over time, including loss in muscle mass and achy joints associated with arthritis, which is more common as we age. The most common form of arthritis and joint disease, osteoarthritis, affects over 30 million U.S. adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and can easily strip older adults of their independence.
A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found just one hour of brisk walking or moderate-to-vigorous activity a week can prevent everyday physical limitations for older adults with osteoarthritis.
The study measured mobile ability on tasks like walking across the street within a certain amount of time and the ability to perform routine tasks in our daily lives, such as getting dressed and showering.
When the study concluded after four years, researchers noticed that both study groups had developed osteoarthritis. But people who didn’t perform at least an hour of brisk or moderate activity had developed physical limitations and disabilities. Those who did perform an hour of weekly exercise lowered their risk of mobile disability by 85% and decreased daily living limitations by 45%.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a loss of cartilage which leads to bone spur formation, abnormal joint contact force and the bone rubbing on bone.
“While the normal gliding surface of a healthy joint is like ice on ice, with arthritis, it is like cement on cement,” says Dr. Zachary Domont, an orthopedic surgeon with Advocate Medical Group in Lincolnshire and Libertyville, Ill.
Although there is no way to reverse the effects of arthritis once it has set in, maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle helps avoid the physical limitations and debilitating symptoms associated with arthritis.
“A critical component of combating arthritis symptoms is through maintaining joint fluidity and motion,” Dr. Domont says. “When we live an active lifestyle, the fluid in our joints flows and allows the body to move without a lot of strain. When cartilage dries out and we lose the natural lubrication in our joints, we experience stiffness and aches, which occurs because our cartilage is mostly made up of water.”
Dr. Domont also emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight.
“Keeping extra weight off and maintaining a low body-mass index is critical to easing pressure on our knees,” says Dr. Domont. “I recommend low-impact exercises for older adults with arthritis symptoms such as aqua therapy or using the elliptical. These types of exercise allow you to dial up resistance without putting too much stress and shear on cartilage. For those with severe arthritis symptoms, listen to your body and ease up the intensity if a workout gets too painful, but try to continue with light exercise daily.”
Every person and case of arthritis is different, so it’s best to adjust your workout and lifestyle habits accordingly.
You can take a quick hip & knee pain assessment quiz here to evaluate your hips and knees and learn what your next steps should be.
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