Aches and pains from degenerative joint disease -- the arthritis associated with aging -- can discourage many 40+ adults from exercising. Surprisingly, however, exercise is just what you need to overcome the stiffness and pain.
The term arthritis, meaning "inflammation of a joint," refers to many conditions that can cause joint pain. As we age, the most common form of arthritis that occurs is osteoarthritis. It affects more than 21 million adult Americans, beginning on average at age 45. By age 65, more than 50 percent of the population has osteoarthritis in at least one joint.
What Are the Causes?
Osteoarthritis may develop simply due to the normal wear and tear of the joints over the years. Other factors that may hasten the development of osteoarthritis include excess weight, poor posture or even damage from a previous injury. Any of these conditions can cause the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones to soften and wear out, resulting in chronic irritation. In some cases, the cartilage wears away completely, exposing the underlying bone, and thickening of the ends of the bone may occur.
Usually a person with osteoarthritis only has problems in the joints of their hips, knees, feet and spine. Sometimes the pain can be relieved with rest, while other times, especially in the case of more serious symptoms, drugs may be needed to reduce the swelling. Only in very severe cases is surgery necessary to replace or repair the joints damaged by osteoarthritis.
Why Should You Exercise? Regular exercise is an important aspect of osteoarthritis treatment. Exercise can reduce stress on the joints by strengthening the surrounding muscles. It can also help maintain flexibility and joint mobility, uplift mood and outlook, and improve blood flow and heart health.While osteoarthritis might put some team sports, long-distance running or aerobic dancing out of your league, it doesn't mean you have to hang up your athletic shoes. There are many exercises that will help you strengthen your joints, including: Bike riding: Unlike walking, running, aerobic dancing or other weight-bearing activities, bicycling is gentle on your joints while still helping you increase cardiovascular fitness and build muscle. Biking can also be a very effective calorie-burner that contributes to long-term weight loss. Stretching: Often overlooked, or just plain neglected, stretching exercises are a vital way to strengthen your joints and keep you limber. A flexible joint has the ability to move through a greater range of motion and requires less energy to do so, while greatly decreasing your risk of injury.Another great benefit is that stretching raises tissue temperature, which in turn increases circulation and nutrient transport to joint structures. This allows greater elasticity of surrounding tissues and enhances performance. Stretching also increases joint synovial fluid, a lubricating fluid that promotes the transport of nutrients to the joints' atricular cartilage. Fitness experts recommend stretching for at least half an hour two or three times a week -- but every day is even better, if only for a short period of time.
Stair climbing: This form of exercise is probably one of the most efficient ways to strengthen the bones, muscles and joints of your lower body. What's more, stairs are everywhere -- and they're free. You don't need a membership in an expensive health club; the stairs in your home or at the mall will do just fine. And, stair-climbing helps with weight loss -- just half an hour can burn as much as 200 calories for the average adult. Swimming: Even if you can't swim, you can use the pool for an excellent workout to help strengthen joints. Remember, if it's hot and humid outside, you might not want to exercise. But a quick trip to the swimming pool will not only cool you off, it will set you on the road to a healthier lifestyle. The trick is to make exercise fun, and to find a routine that excites you and that you look forward to doing several times a week. When you become bored, make slight changes in your routine to keep it exciting.
Source: Health & Wellness