Posted by dave on June 15th, 2012
Recent research makes it abundantly clear that exercise is the key to guarding the health of your joints. Not only does exercise keep your body weight down, but it is vital for keeping your joints strong and your cartilage and ligaments flexible and healthy. This is true for men and women of all ages. It has been shown that even those with joint pain or arthritis have a lower incidence of symptoms and improved quality of life when they exercise regularly.
Exercise for older individuals can help prevent problems later on in life. In Australia, a study examined the effects of exercise for middle-aged women as well as senior citizens over a three-year period. The study found that women in their 70’s who exercised for 75 minutes each week reduced the odds of developing arthritis symptoms. The results were even better when the women exercised more; those who participated in moderate physical activity for 150 minutes each week reduced the chances of arthritis even further.
Exercise is particularly helpful for those with arthritis. As published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine in 2009, researchers in Sweden found that individuals with rheumatoid arthritis who exercised their hands over a six-week period improved hand strength and dexterity. Staying physically fit is recommended for those with chronic arthritis. The publication Current Opinion in Rheumatology reported in 2009 that “there is a preponderance of strong scientific evidence that both aerobic and muscle strengthening exercise, alone or in combination, are safe and moderately effective for individuals with chronic arthritis”. Among the benefits reported were improved fitness, mobility, and function, as well as reduction in symptoms.
One of reasons why exercise is so helpful for those with arthritis is that effective exercise does not have to be high-impact. A 2007 study conducted by Flavia M. Cicuttini, Ph.D., of Monash University and Alfred Hospital in Australia concluded that even low-impact activity (such as walking) is sufficient to prevent osteoarthritis by strengthening cartilage and improving bone mass. They concluded, “Our data suggest that at least 20 minutes once per week of activity sufficient to result in sweating or some shortness of breath might be adequate”.
Consistency is essential to getting the most benefit from exercise. Researchers from the Department of Immunology/Rheumatology at Stanford University, along with scientists from Genentech biomedical company, examined the effect of exercise in men and women over 50 years of age, over a fourteen-year period. They determined that regularity and routine is key. In the study, regular exercise reduced pain for patients with osteoarthritis in the knees and also prevented lower back pain. It should also be noted that patients who did not participate in regular physical activity experienced negative results. Not only were they more prone to injury, but they showed lower bone density and weakened muscle tone. The researchers concluded,
The primary finding from this investigation is that while pain does increase with age in subjects in all study groups, there was no progressive increase in musculoskeletal pain in older adults who participated in regular vigorous exercise, including running, compared with those who did not. Initial differences favoring exercisers were shown to be maintained over time. As pain and disability are linked, our findings add to the evidence that morbidity associated with aging can be reduced by participating in regular aerobic activity.