National Arthritis Awareness Month: Take Action!
May being National Arthritis Awareness Month, let’s take a look at the things you can do to live well with arthritis. Maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active are two of them.
Take action – don’t let arthritis limit you. Most people know that arthritis can cause pain and can interfere with the ability to engage in daily activities. Many people also mistakenly view arthritis as an inevitable part of aging. What people may not know is that two-thirds of all people with arthritis are actually working-age adults (between ages 18–64).
Arthritis can interfere with one’s physical abilities and their ability to successfully manage other conditions that are common among people who have arthritis. These other challenging conditions include diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and overweight or obesity. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active are recommended for managing each of these conditions. Yet research shows that having arthritis can actually be a barrier against doing these very things that can improve arthritis symptoms, these other conditions, overall health, and quality of life.
It can be difficult to engage in healthier behaviors, such as being more physically active, but doing so is recommended for people with arthritis and can help them maintain involvement in work and other valued life activities.
Watch Your Weight
Did you know that…
being overweight is one of the strongest risk factors for osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis? Carrying extra weight results in unnecessary extra pressure on joints – 1 pound of excess weight equals about 4 pounds of pressure on the knee. Current estimates are that 1 in 3 obese adults have arthritis, and overall rates of arthritis are increasing over time, most likely due to the aging population and increases in obesity.
If you are overweight or obese, even small amounts of weight loss, 10-12 pounds, can improve arthritis symptoms and delay disability. Maintaining a healthy weight throughout your life may improve your chances of never having arthritis. Being physically active and making healthy nutrition choices are important to maintaining a proper weight.
Did you know that…
routine, physical activity is recommended for people with arthritis? Though having arthritis may make it difficult to be physically active initially, engaging in low impact physical activities can help reduce arthritis pain and other symptoms, and maintain or restore physical function and improve mood.
Brisk walking, biking, swimming, water aerobics, and dancing are good ways to incorporate low impact aerobic activity into the day and are safe for most people. Recommended amounts of activity should be done in addition to usual daily activities and can be broken up into smaller, more manageable amounts, at least 10 minutes at a time, throughout the day.
Even small amounts of exercise can help and any activity is better than none. Those encountering joint symptoms that persist for more than 2 hours after an activity can cut back on the time, intensity, or duration of their activity, or change the type of activity, rather than stop altogether.
If you are worried about getting started, talk with your doctor about available physical activity programs and know that the benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks.
How Else Can I Take Action?
In addition to maintaining a healthy weight and physically active lifestyle, there are other things that can be done to take action against arthritis. Protect your joints from injury, learn self-management techniques, and talk to your doctor.
Like overweight and obesity, joint injury is also a preventable risk factor for osteoarthritis. Arthritis-related joint injuries can happen around the home, during sports and recreation activities, at work and during transportation.
Follow sports, home and occupational safety guidelines, find safe places and ways to be physically active, and obey motor vehicle and transportation laws and regulations.
Learning techniques to reduce pain and limitations can also be beneficial for people with arthritis.
Image: Flickr creativecommons Johny Loo