Obesity is a huge problem in America, with over a third of the adult population (36.5%) being classified as obese (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). Maintaining a healthy weight helps you avoid putting unnecessary strain on the body and makes everyday life easier and more comfortable, especially for your joints.
Some joints will carry more weight than others, for example, your knees are load-bearing joints that carry a significant proportion your weight, whereas your elbows will only be strained while carrying heavy shopping bags or lifting weights at the gym. Being overweight makes the knees and other load bearing joints such as the hips, ankles and lower back work harder with every step.
When walking on flat ground, your body exerts 1½ times your body weight of pressure onto your knees – so a 200-pound man will be putting his knees under 300-pounds of pressure, which increases to two to three times the original body weight when going up or down stairs (Harvard Health Publishing, undated). It’s important that we remember to take care of our joints to reduce the risk of suffering from conditions such as degenerative joint disease (aka osteoarthritis). Keeping our bodies at a healthy weight is a great way to start.
Does obesity have a direct link with joint issues?
As obesity becomes more common, so does arthritis. From 1978 to 2002, the correlation between obesity and arthritis rose from just 3% to 18%; a person with obesity is almost 60% more likely than a person of a healthy weight to develop arthritis (Obesity Action, undated). A large study looking at the link between weight and joint health noted that overweight men had a 42% higher chance of developing osteoarthritis compared to those of a healthy weight, and women with a BMI over 25 were also more susceptible than women with a normal-range BMI (Obesity Action, undated). BMI is a persons’ weight in kilograms, divided by the square of height in meters – and can be used as an indicator of body fatness (CPC, 2017).
How can losing weight help with joint pain?
As mentioned above, being overweight puts an extra strain on your joints. Losing this weight will not only help your joints work under less pressure but will also make exercise easier and more enjoyable.
Regular exercise will help to strengthen the muscles around the joint, taking some of the strain away from it and increasing your range of movement. Exercise has also been proven to help maintain bone strength, make sleeping easier, and improve your balance and quality of life (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015).
What type of exercise is safe to do if I already have arthritis?
It’s important to speak to your doctor about an appropriate exercise routine, as they will already know the severity and pain points of your condition. Beyond this, the types of exercise you do are entirely up to you and what you are comfortable with. Many choose to do swimming as the weightlessness provided by the water can be very soothing for aching joints. Other low-impact activities include walking and cycling. Walking the dog is a great excuse to get out the house, and hikes with friends or going to the gym together can all help. Remember to always stick to what is suitable for you and don’t push yourself too hard.
Does my diet affect my joint health?
Your diet can, in fact, have an effect on your joint health. There are plenty of foods that have been found to increase bone strength. This includes fresh fish that is packed with omega-3s, dairy which has plenty of bone-strengthening calcium, as well as cherries, broccoli and red peppers which are full of vitamins. Oatmeal is also linked to lowering levels of inflammation, which can help to reduce pain. (Web MD, 2014). There are also foods that can have the opposite effect. Cutting down on the amount of processed food in your diet can reduce inflammation and actually help to restore the body’s natural defenses (Icahn School of Medicine, 2009).
Another way to help is to take daily joint supplements like the Move Free® Ultra Triple Action Tablets to support joints, bones and cartilage*. Why take two huge glucosamine chondroitin tablets when you can enjoy one tiny pill instead? Each pill contains type II collagen to preserve and maintain cartilage, hyaluronic acid to support healthy joint lubrication for smooth movements, and boron which aids healthy bones by maintaining vitamin D, magnesium and calcium. Joints receive their essential nutrients from their adjoining bones, so healthy bones are key for healthy joints*.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017) Adult obesity facts
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015) Physical activity and Health
Harvard Health Publishing (undated) Why weight matters when it comes to joint pain
Obesity Action (undated) The wear and tear of obesity: the burden of weight in joint disease
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017) About Adult BMI
Icahn School of Medicine (2009) Study shows that reducing processed and fried food intake lowers related health risks and restores body’s defenses
Web MD (2014) Eat right to maintain healthy joints