As we age one of our biggest problem areas is typically our joints. We start to develop discomfort in these areas and diagnosis of osteoarthritis is fairly common, which can be incredibly debilitating. Heck, I’m not even 30 yet and a recent MRI told me I have mild arthritis in my hip already – the dull, burning ache that results in loss of sleep and just straight-up discomfort. Is there any way to relieve this pain without copious amounts of medication or even surgery?
Well, it seems that a life of physical activity may help keep our bones and joints healthy! What? Sounds counter intuitive? Let’s dive in.
Fitness for Improved Bones and Joints
A 2014 study published in Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (JAAOS) found that being active can drastically improve our musculoskeletal health and can also help to minimize some of the effects of aging. This was determined by reviewing some of the most recent research on elite athletes 65 years and older.
Lead author on the study orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bryan Vopat explained, “An increasing amount of evidence demonstrates that we can modulate age-related decline in the musculoskeletal system. A lot of the deterioration we see with aging can be attributed to a more sedentary lifestyle instead of aging itself.”
This isn’t the first (nor the last) study to depict how being physically active as we age can help improve our bone and joint health. Another 2014 study found that exercise and manual therapy could significantly reduce the pain and mobility problems related to osteoarthritis.
To combat this lack of physical activity, the researchers suggested that resistance training, endurance training and flexibility/balance training work well together to help improve our bone and joint health. Combining these three can help to improve joint and bone health while also helping to improve your strength, muscle mass, cardiovascular health and balance.
It’s never too late to start an exercise program. Just make sure to get your doctor’s clearance to start a new exercise program (and get professional help if necessary) and start slow. This is particularly true for older adults. Dr. Vopat explained, “Regimens must be individualized for older adults according to their baseline level of conditioning and disability, and be instituted gradually and safely, particularly for elderly and poorly conditioned adults.”
While it might not be an “easy” way to improve your joint and bone health, exercise should be a vital tool in your overall health regime. From improving joint pain to improving your functional strength to just improving your heart health, exercise is a great way to improve your overall quality of life! Even if you don’t have joint pain, starting and maintaining a fitness regime just might be what you need in order to live a long, comfortable life!
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