Most Americans, even those with chronic conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, can improve their health and quality of life with regular, moderate amounts of physical activity. As we get older, our bodies change. Muscle size and strength decrease primarily due to inactivity. Bone mass and density decrease, increasing the susceptibility often occur due to arthritis. Thirty minutes of physical activity a day can help individuals feel good, and prevent some medical conditions.

Twenty-five percent of American adults report they don't engage in any physical activity in their leisure time and 60 percent don't engage in vigorous activity. It is not only a problem for individuals, but also the nation; adults exercise less as they get older, and the population is aging. By the year 2030, one in five people will be 65 or older.

Medical research shows that physical activity is safe and beneficial for people with arthritis, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and other chronic conditions. In fact, the lack of activity can make the condition worse or, at least, make it difficult to live with. Physical activity can strengthen bones, relieve joint stiffness and reduce pain. It will help you maintain good balance so you are less likely to fall and suffer a disabling bone fracture. Inactive people may encounter some muscle soreness at first, but it will disappear.

Osteoarthritis

More than 36 million Americans have some form of arthritis. There are two major types of arthritis-osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Often, weight-bearing joints such as the knee, hip, and spine are involved in osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects joints in the hands, wrist, feet, and ankles.

Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cartilage that protects and cushions joints breaks down over time. Eventually, the bones, formerly separated by cartilage, rub against each other. This results in damage to the tissue and underlying bone, causing the painful joint symptoms of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative joint disease or osteoarthrosis, is the most common form of arthritis. It most often affects the joints of the spine, fingers, thumbs, hips, knees, or toes.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is traditionally considered a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack the joints. It is a disabling and painful inflammatory condition, which can lead to substantial loss of mobility due to pain and joint destruction. RA is a systemic disease, often affecting extra-articular tissues throughout the body including the skin, blood vessels, heart, lungs, and muscles. About 60% of RA patients are unable to work 10 years after the onset of their disease.

Exercise is very important for individuals with arthritis. Exercise helps keep the joints flexible, the muscles around the joints strong, bone and cartilage tissue strong and healthy; and reduces pain.

Individuals with osteoarthritis should:

  • Engage in a balanced fitness program that includes walking, swimming, cycling, and stretching exercises.
  • Avoid exercises that place excessive stress on the joints like aerobic workouts, running or competitive sports activities.

Low Back Pain

Six million persons a year see a physician because of back pain. Most often, back pain is caused by excessive strain of the back muscles and ligaments. Lifting improperly or a sudden twisting movement can result in low back pain. Other acquired conditions like infections or arthritis can also cause pain.

Exercise is a common treatment for people experiencing low back pain. Orthopaedic surgeons usually prescribe exercises that increase muscle strength to better support the spine as well as improve flexibility and function.

Individuals with low back pain should:

  • Perform daily stretching exercises.
  • Engage in more active exercise program once the initial pain subsides that includes walking, swimming, bicycling, and strength training with light weights.

Total Joint Replacement

More than 300,000 total joint replacement procedures are performed each year by orthopaedic surgeons in the United States. The most frequent reason for performing a total joint replacement is to relieve the pain and disability caused by severe arthritis. Most total joint replacements involve hip and knee joints. Individuals with a total joint replacement still can lead active lifestyles. Exercise not only is important in the recovery process, but also in the years following the surgery. A proper exercise program can help restore mobility and strength in the joint.

Individuals with a total joint replacement should:

  • Avoid activities that place repeated stress on the replacement such as running, jogging, or skiing.
  • Engage in activities that do not place excessive stress on the replacement like swimming, bicycling, golf and doubles tennis.
  • Seek medical advice before beginning any physical activity because some restrictions may be recommended.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with information that may be useful in attaining optimal health. Nothing in it is meant as a prescription or as medical advice. You should check with your physician before implementing any changes in your exercise or lifestyle habits, especially if you have physical problems or are taking medications of any kind.