Physical activity can improve joint pain
(NC) – Increasing physical activity levels is one of the best ways to become healthier. While many people are aware of the benefits of physical activity to improve diabetes and heart disease, you might be surprised to learn that being physically active is a vital part of managing joint pain and arthritis. Many people avoid physical activity because they fear it will worsen their joint pain and that it is unsafe if they have arthritis. The Arthritis Society says that the opposite is true. So how does physical activity help?
Decreases pain, stiffness. At first, exercise might cause some temporary discomfort, but over time, regular physical activity decreases joint pain because flexibility, range-of-motion and endurance activities help strengthen joints. These activities build muscle, reduce joint stiffness and improve mobility.
Improves function. Regular physical activity also makes daily tasks easier to manage. Improved strength and flexibility can make everyday movement, such as sitting and standing, less painful.
Reduces stress on joints. Exercise can reduce the burden on the joints in your lower body in two different ways. Physical activity can help you lose excess body weight — and each ‘extra’ pound you lose decreases the mechanical stress on your knees by the equivalent of four pounds. Exercise can also strengthen the muscles around your joints, which means the muscle bears more of the weight rather than the joint.
Nourishes, lubricates joints. As arthritis progresses, the cartilage in joints that are impacted by the disease begins to wear away. Because cartilage doesn’t contain blood vessels, it must absorb oxygen and nutrients from special fluid surrounding the joint. Cartilage depends on joint movement to absorb nutrients, remove waste and replace old fluid with new fluid. Body movement actually “feeds” the joints and helps keep them healthy.
Bolsters mental well-being. People with joint pain or arthritis who are physically active may feel as though they have more control over their symptoms. Routines filled with regular activity can boost mood, alleviate depression and improve sleep. These factors are particularly relevant to people with arthritis because the disease often causes severe fatigue and increases the risk of depression.
Find out how you can get started on the path to a more active lifestyle by joining The Arthritis Society’s Lifestyle Makeover Challenge at www.arthritis.ca/lifestyle or calling the information line at 1.800.321.1433.
Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Catherine Yeulet