How Weight Loss Helps Your Joints
Healthy weight management can help reduce discomfort and increase long-term joint health and joint support.
Here's how losing the extra pounds can affect your body and your joints:
Reduces the stress on your joints
Every pound of extra weight increases the pressure placed on your knees, hips and ankles with each step you take. With normal walking, your joints are impacted by about 3 to 5 times your body weight so even 10 pounds of extra body weight can act like an extra 30 pounds of pressure - or more - on your knees and hips. Under this pressure, knee cartilage can break down. And without a thick cushioning of cartilage, your bones are more likely to rub against each other, causing discomfort and bone damage over time.
Helps reduce inflammation. Scientists believe that joint problems are most likely caused by a combination of increased force on individual joints and factors within your body. Research shows that fat cells create and release proteins that promote inflammation throughout the body1. Your body needs fat cells but too many can lead to damage in your joints. Maintaining a healthy weight helps keep your body in balance.
Helps you avoid or postpone surgery
Staying at a healthy weight can also help you avoid, postpone, or bounce back faster from joint surgery. Weight management and joint support are crucial: research shows that overweight patients often have hip and knee replacements at younger ages than those at a healthy weight2. Surgery in overweight patients is more complicated, too, often requiring longer periods of anesthesia and operating time. If you do need surgery, you'll heal faster if you're in good shape.
Makes it easier to be more active
If you have joint issues, staying physically active is key to getting better. Being overweight can restrict your range of motion and put more strain on your back and knees, making movement uncomfortable. That in turn makes it harder to sustain physical activity. Start with moderate activity such as taking a daily walk to build up your stamina. As you become more active you’ll increase your ability to bend, stretch and burn fat.
Lowers your risk of future joint problems
Maintaining a healthy weight can make a major difference to future joint health: “Women who lost 11 pounds cut their risk of developing joint issues by 50%, say researchers at Johns Hopkins Institute3.” And heavier people often experience problems much earlier than those at a healthier weight.
One study found that the risk of developing knee problems would drop 21.4% in overweight and obese men if they lost a significant amount of weight. For women, joint issues would decrease by 33% if they lost weight3.
Remember: As you lose weight, you can gain healthier joints for years to come!
3 Arthritis Rheum 1998; 41(8):1343–1355