May is Arthritis Awareness Month — Exercise, keeping weight down can help

Published Apr 30, 2017 at 9:00am

Greater than half of New York adults ages 65 and older have arthritis.

Arthritis affects people of all ages, but most commonly people over age 65. The number of people who suffer from arthritis continues to climb.

Currently there are 54 million adults, or one in every four adults, who suffer from this condition.

Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the U.S. and often makes it difficult for people to climb stairs, walk long distances, hold eating utensils, carry groceries, and perform basic tasks and work functions.

The disease is more common in women, than men, and affects members of all racial and ethnic groups.

Adults who are overweight and obese are at increased likelihood of developing arthritis.  

According to the CDC, exercise can reduce arthritis symptoms by up to 40 percent. Physical activity can also help manage other chronic conditions that often coincide with arthritis, such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Unfortunately, people who suffer with arthritis may be reluctant to exercise because of the joint pain they are regularly experiencing.  

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a term used to describe more than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions. These affect the joints, tissues surrounding the joints, and connective tissue. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can affect multiple organs in the body as well. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Other forms include: rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and gout.  

What are the symptoms?

Joint pain, aching, stiffness, redness, and swelling in and around the joints are the most common symptoms. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are autoimmune diseases where the immune system attacks itself thereby potentially resulting in additional symptoms in the body. 

CDC recommendations:

• Be Active: physical activity reportedly decreases pain, improves function, and delays the onset of disability. Low impact activities like walking, swimming, and biking are good choices for staying active.  

• Watch your weight: The likelihood of developing arthritis increases for those who are overweight and obese.

According to the state Department of Health, 72.3 percent of people with arthritis are overweight or obese.

People can reduce their risk for arthritis by maintaining a healthy weight.

Losing even a small amount of weight can help lessen the stress on knees, hips, and your lower back.

• See your doctor: If you have symptoms of arthritis, see your doctor. It is crucial for arthritis to be diagnosed early, and to take appropriate recommendations to manage the disease.

This is even more so important for inflammatory versions of arthritis.

• Protect your joints: Be careful to avoid injury to your joints.

Those who experience sports and work related injuries, or work in jobs that require repetitive motions, are at an increased risk for osteoarthritis.  

Always consult with your doctor prior to initiating physical activity, especially if you have not been active in a while. If you have been diagnosed with arthritis, you should start with a small amount of activity and gradually add time (example: 3-5 minutes, twice a day).

If your arthritis symptoms become worse with exercise, modify your activity by decreasing the frequency, duration, and intensity, or change the type of activity. Your health care provider and an exercise specialist can suggest additional low impact exercises for you to take part in that will help you to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.  

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For information on local Chronic Pain Self-Management, Healthy Eating, and Active Living classes contact Carol Nettleton at: 315-768-3632.