More than just aches and pains, arthritis is a chronic disease that damages joints and can lead to loss of function or disability. In fact, it is the most common cause of disability in the United States, affecting 50 million Americans or 22 percent of the total population.
For years it was believed that people with arthritis should not exercise because movement could cause further damage to joints. Now, physical activity is recognized as playing an integral role in the prevention and treatment of arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, exercise provides relief from pain, improves physical function and quality of life, and delays the onset of disability without worsening symptoms or the progression of the disease.
Unfortunately, the already staggering social and economic impact of arthritis in the United States is set to explode in coming decades. A new government report found that the number of adults with arthritis has increased by almost 1 million since 2003 to 2005, and it’s estimated that arthritis will affect 67 million Americans in 2030.
The effects of arthritis can be devastating, but self-management strategies such as weight loss and increasing physical activity can lessen pain and improve function, and may prevent or limit the impact of arthritis on daily activities.
“For every one pound you lose, that's four pounds of pressure off each knee,” says Dr. Patience H. White, the Arthritis Foundation’s vice president of public health. In addition, losing as little as 11 pounds can reduce your risk of developing knee osteoarthritis by 50 percent.
It is important for Americans to make daily movement a year-round goal. While it may seem hard to get started, there are plenty of opportunities for you to move year-round, no matter where you are or what the season:
* Move with others.
Enjoy exercise more by making it a social activity you can enjoy with your friends. The Arthritis Foundation organizes events year-round to keep people moving, including the Jingle Bell Run/Walk and Arthritis Walk, which also raise money for important arthritis research and community services. You can get started today by registering for an event near you.
* Take a walk.
A stroll around your neighborhood or on a walking path will not only leave you with a trimmer physique and less joint pain, but can also improve your mood and overall sense of well-being. When it's too cold or hot outside, move indoors by using a treadmill or walking in place. For a walking program that is specifically designed to reduce arthritis discomfort and improve overall health, try the Arthritis Foundation's Walk with Ease program.
* Try Tai Chi.
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese exercise with a variety of proven health benefits, such as reducing stress and relieving arthritis pain. Because its gentle movements are easy to learn and do not require uncomfortable bending or squatting,
Tai Chi is a great way to move all year. Check with your local Arthritis Foundation office to find a class near you.
To find out about more ways you can move year-round, visit www.letsmovetogether.org.