There are many benefits to staying in shape including building and maintaining muscular strength, increasing bone density, reducing stress and improving cardiovascular health. 

On the flipside, there are many risks and adverse effects of not exercising – particularly if you’re carrying extra weight as a result. One of those relates to joint health, as strong joints are crucial for mobility and excess weight can make it difficult to maintain joint health. 

What you need to know about the connection between exercise, body weight and arthritis

arthritis: the most common joint disorder

Overweight individuals are at a much higher risk of developing the most common joint disorder: arthritis. First of all, being overweight can contribute to increased inflammation, and many types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid) are inflammatory. Secondly, carrying extra weight increases the amount of stress on your joints by increasing the load they must endure, especially in the knees and ankles. 

This issue is exasperated in single-leg movements (such as climbing stairs or walking on an incline), as the knees and ankles are forced to support the load of your entire body. According to Harvard Heath, “When you walk across level ground, the force on your knees is the equivalent of 1.5 times your body weight. That means a 200-pound man will put 300 pounds of pressure on his knees with each step. Add an incline, and the pressure is even greater: the force on each knee is two to three times your body weight when you go up and down stairs, and four to five times your body weight when you squat to tie a shoelace or pick up an item you dropped.” (Harvard Health, 2019)

osteoarthritis: the most common form of arthritis

Osteoarthritis (or degenerative joint disease) is the most common form of arthritis. It is categorized into two areas: primary and secondary. While secondary arthritis is often genetic, congenital, or stems from a pre-existing abnormality, primary arthritis has no known cause. Though it often develops as a side effect of aging, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing primary arthritis, including weight maintenance.

exercise and arthritis

Exercise is not only perfectly safe for individuals with arthritis, it’s encouraged! Performing low-impact strength and cardio exercises can help reduce pain and stiffness. Mobility training is also a great way to support increased range of motion to joints that have become limited. That said, it’s important to take the proper steps to ensure safety. We at Nielsen Fitness always recommend that you check in with your doctor or primary care provider before beginning a new exercise program, especially if you are over the age of sixty-five or have a health condition. 

Once you’ve been cleared to begin activity, it’s best to start slow. For example, if you have osteoarthritis that’s causing severe pain in your knees and lower back, an extremely low-impact activity such as swimming may be the best place to start, as buoyancy can immediately reduce pain and pressure. Higher impact choices such as running or lifting heavy weights should be worked up to over time (if at all), though the best type of exercise is specific to the individual and should be based on the guidance of a medical professional.

the importance of warming up and cooling down

A key element of exercise safety is appropriate prep and recovery. A thorough warm up at the start of each workout to soften and relax the joints is crucial, especially for individuals with arthritis. Failing to warm up can increase risk of injury. Appropriate cool down activities can include stretching and icing the joints to reduce possible inflammation that may have occurred.

final words

Joint health is an important part of overall wellbeing, and maintaining a healthy weight can help you achieve it. If you or someone you love is struggling with pain that’s associated with a joint disorder, Nielsen Fitness is here to help. We specialize in working with older adults to improve quality of life and increase longevity. Take the first step on your wellness journey by booking your free first workout today!

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