Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is good for your joint health

What if we told you that slowing the progression of osteoarthritis has nothing to do with visiting a doctor? What if your treatment was in your own hands?

Consider these facts:

  • Over 70% of Americans are overweight or obese.
  • Every pound of body weight places four to six pounds of pressure on each knee joint.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 US adults suffer from arthritis.
  • The overall direct and indirect costs of obesity-related healthcare in the United States exceed $215 billion per year.
  • Physical activity improves pain and physical function for people with arthritis. Physical activity is the best available treatment for osteoarthritis.

What does this mean? Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is good for your joint health. Through physical activity, you can slow the progression of arthritis and maintain healthy joints.

Pressure on Joints

Extra weight puts people at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and certain cancers. Being overweight carries implications for musculoskeletal health, also.  Extra weight puts additional pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. Every pound of body weight places four to six pounds of pressure on each knee joint. This extra pressure on the joints is especially felt in osteoarthritis of the hip and knee joints. Overweight patients also have an increased risk of degenerative disc disease due to increased weight/force through the spine. 

Other Impacts of Extra Weight

Obesity has negative effects on surgical outcome results and complication rates as well. Having a high BMI makes you a higher risk surgical patient, including a higher rate of infection and prosthesis failure compared to patients of normal weight. In some cases, surgeons and/or hospitals have BMI cutoffs for performing elective surgeries on obese patients due to safety risks, or risk of poorer outcomes.

Obesity is linked to other health conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, and sleep apnea. The connection between diabetes and joint damage may help explain why more than half of Americans diagnosed with diabetes also have arthritis.

The Goal: Maintain a Healthy Weight:

Because of the pressure that extra weight puts on your joints, maintaining a healthy weight is the best way to delay or reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis. Even losing just a few pounds can reduce inflammation and joint stress.

couple riding bikes

Osteoarthritis is Common

Nearly 1 in 4 US adults have arthritis.

Get Physical

Increasing physical activity has many health benefits and can help you lose weight. The physical activity recommendations for adults is 150-300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Don’t be discouraged if you’re new to exercising. Walking, gardening, and vacuuming count towards physical activity. It is important to find exercise routines that you like and to be consistent.

Instead of focusing on physical activity to lose weight, try focusing on the other benefits of moving more this year.

Benefits of exercise:

  • Exercise helps joints stay limber and strengthens the muscles that support and stabilize your hip and knee joints.
  • Exercise increases balance and coordination to prevent falls now and later in life.
  • Exercise strengthens bone density.
  • Improved mood, reduced anxiety, improved sleep, and looking and feeling better are also benefits of physical activity.

Osteoarthritis occurs because of a combination of factors, many of which can be prevented. While we like guiding you to health, we know you play a starring role in your health. Maintaining a healthy weight is a key treatment recommendation we would like to make.

Tips for Starting a New Exercise Routine

  • Eating right is an important part of weight loss.  Especially when pain limits activity, we know many people can feel hopeless about losing weight. “Exercise is important but people shouldn’t feel like weight loss is impossible without being able to exercise,” says Dr. de Vere.  
  • Start small as a little change can go a long way and lead to long term habits.
  • Start an exercise program with a friend. You’re more likely to stick to an exercise program when you join or participate with someone.
  • Consistency will play a larger role in long-term health.  Pick an activity you like, whether that be walking, dancing, hiking, playing soccer, or whatever fits your lifestyle.  
  • Drinking more water is associated with both better weight management and joint health. Drinking water leads to overall reduced calorie intake when compared to drinking sweetened beverages.

Resources: Arthritis Organization, AAOS.org, CDC, Harvard Medicine

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