“Are you kidding?” A patient named Bob raised his voice during a visit earlier today at my office, “You are sending me to exercise even though I have pain when I move?”

Bob is a sales executive who travels all over the country for his company. Like most of my male patients, he seldom sees me unless something really bothers him. Late last year, his wife had to insist he have the physical that was supposed to have happened 2 years ago when Bob turned 50.

But today he came to see me because of right knee pain that started a few months ago, and is not letting up.

There was no recent injury to the knee, which Bob can remember. Before he turned 40, Bob used to play hockey. There could have been a few falls (and fights) a long time ago, but nothing that really crippled him, even temporarily. When he got married at age 29, Bob was 5’8”, 150 lbs, and in top physical shape. But now, over 20 years later, with decades of a busy work and travel schedule, he is at least 10 lbs overweight.

After I listened to his story and examined him, I concluded that he has run-of-the-mill arthritis. Among the recommendations I made was physical therapy.

That’s when he thought I was kidding.

No, I was not kidding. Exercise DOES improve knee arthritis.

In 2012, The US government commissioned a large-scale review on the effect of physical therapy on knee arthritis. The scientists reached the following conclusions based on 422 high quality studies:

• Aerobic exercises can reduce pain and improve knee function
• Strengthening exercises can reduce pain and improve knee function
• Balance-increasing exercises can reduce knee pain
• Adverse events from physical therapy are not common

A separate large-scale study in 2011 reviewed another 28 high-quality studies. This time it focused on the effect of physical activity on knee structures. These scientists also found that physical activity can help keep cartilage in top shape. In their words, physical activity is “beneficial, rather than detrimental to joint health.”

Of course, Bob is not going to start sprinting the first time he sees his physical therapist. The therapist will help him work around his pain, not through the pain. They will work together to lessen stiffness and improve range of motion. They will build stronger supporting tissues for his knee joint. If all goes well, with time his joint will be stronger in both structure and function. Most likely his pain will be much improved or go away completely.

If you want to use physical activity to strengthen your knee joints, whether for pain or prevention, use the same cautious approach.

First, like Bob, if you have pain that does not go away, check with your doctor. In addition to run-of-the-mill arthritis, there can be other conditions causing your pain that require different treatments.

Along with exercises that strengthen your knee or other joints, work with your doctor or therapist to create a physical activity plan for your whole body. You will find that your health and fitness levels will go farther with a whole body approach.

Here is another plus to working with a professional. With a good physical activity plan, you will have more endorphins, the NATURAL pain and stress fighters that make you feel less physical pain in general. You will also be happier!
Exercise may also help you achieve a good, healthy weight, which cuts down on the higher risk of arthritis that comes with being overweight.

Take Bob in our story as an example. He is presently overweight. If he weighed 10 lbs less to be in the normal weight range for his height, his likelihood of getting knee arthritis would be 20% less. For a woman of normal height, every 11 lbs of weight loss drops her risk for knee arthritis more than 50%. That is a significant reduction!

Excessive weight causes more knee problems ― for every step you take, your knee has to bear a force up to 6 times your body weight.

But, do you know that being overweight also makes you more likely to have arthritis in your hand joints, even though your hands do not have to support much of your body weight? Think of all the aging people you know who could reduce or eliminate joint pain just by taking off the extra pounds.

If you read our special report, “Seven Health Bombs Ticking in Your Body,” you would have gotten some useful information on exercise already. Here are some practical points to follow as you step up your physical activities specifically for your joints.

Try Low-Impact Exercises
There are many low-impact exercises you can consider to take the load off your joints. Walking, swimming, biking, and water aerobics are the most common ones.

Low-impact exercises are not necessarily low-intensity exercises. You can add speed to any of them to kick up the intensity a notch (or several notches). If you find walking not physically challenging enough, try walking the stairs.

There are a few other low-impact exercises that you may not have thought of. Hiking, rowing, kayaking, step aerobics, strength training, snowshoeing, rock climbing, elliptical, stairmaster, pilates, golf, and ballroom dancing all can give you a nice workout without taxing your joints too much.

Take Up Tai Chi or Yoga
These two gentle low-impact forms of exercise are great for flexibility and spiritual well-being.

Tai Chi is a form of traditional exercise practiced for general health purposes in China.

If you ever visited China or Taiwan and woke up early in the morning, you would see parks filled with people doing tai chi.

Research on elderly people shows that tai chi can improve knee arthritis and can easily be included into your daily activities. Though usually practiced in a group, tai chi can also be done individually.

The Arthritis Foundation offers a helpful tai chi program in many communities. If you cannot attend the group teaching, the Foundation offers a low-cost DVD for the benefit of people with arthritis.

Yoga in its native India actually has many spiritual components that focus on unifying the mind, body, and spirit. Here in the US, we tend to focus more on the physical movements of the practice.

Gentle yoga practices such as Iyengar yoga have been shown to ease arthritis. If you are new to yoga, try to work with a qualified instructor first. It is important to remember to avoid poses and movements that give you pain.

Mix Up Different Physical Activities
As found by the large review study mentioned earlier, low-impact aerobic exercise, tai chi, and yoga all benefit people with arthritis. So, mix up the cardio, strength training, and balance exercises to make a varied and integrated exercise program. Variety also makes exercise enjoyable. See if you can find an exercise buddy to help spice up the fun.

A few words here just in case you are not sure what balance exercises are. These are the exercises that build up your core strength to give you good balance.

Listen to Your Body
Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. And pain in your joint(s) is your body’s way of asking you to stop moving until you do something about it.

This principle applies when you are doing physical therapy to ease joint pain. It also applies if you are just exercising to reap the benefits of having strong and flexible joints.

So stop if it hurts. Do not overdo any exercises, especially if you are new to it.

Starting low with a low-impact physical activity and slowly increasing the intensity is always a good practice. Warm up well before your exercises. This also applies to stretches.

If you want to treat or prevent arthritis pain, work with a trainer or instructor if possible. And, if you have any chronic illness especially of the heart or lungs, always check with your doctor first.

Keep reading to discover the keys for defusing ticking health bombs that could be lurking in your body. Go to www.WholeHealthAlerts.com/free-reportstoday and discover the medical secrets necessary to know so you can live a better, longer, healthier life.

Author's Bio: 

For more information about better joints go to: www.WholeHealthAlerts.com/free-reports/

Zen-Jay Chuang, MD, is a primary care physician and Chairman of the Whole Health Alerts advisory board. Click here to find out how Dr. Zen-Jay’s biodynamic, cutting edge approach to ancient and modern medicine can help you achieve the best health of your life.

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