Every year in the month of April, National Arthritis Week is celebrated to raise awareness about arthritis, educate the public about how arthritis can affect a person’s life, and gather support for people with this condition.
The theme of 2022, this year, is “Let’s Get Physical!” which spans around physical activity and its importance for people living with arthritis.
Arthritis is one of the most common health conditions in the United States, and a leading cause of disability where almost 59 million adults (1 in 4), have arthritis that has been diagnosed by a doctor. In addition, nearly 26 million are unable to do everyday activities because of arthritis( here).
This condition is marked by painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints. The main symptoms are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age.
The very first signs of arthritis are joint pain, swelling, tenderness for 6 weeks or longer, and morning stiffness for at least 30 minutes. More than one joint is affected especially small joints in your hands, wrists, and feet.
There are several ways this season can enhance better prevention and hopefully stoppage of the arthritis disease.
According to Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center (Here), it is stated that exercise may offer additional benefits to improving or modifying arthritis.
As Dr. Steven Blair, Exercise Epidemiologist and Director of Epidemiology at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas TX notes “Skeletal muscle is the largest organ in the body and is intricately tied with protein turnover and synthesis and many other metabolic and biochemical functions. Activating skeletal muscle has many important health benefits we are only beginning to understand.”
The goals of an exercise program for individuals with arthritis are to:
1) Preserve or restore range of motion and flexibility around affected joints
2) Increase muscle strength and endurance
3) Increase aerobic conditioning to improve mood and decrease health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
How to reduce your risk of arthritis (Bluecross.com )
Some causes of arthritis are beyond one’s control, like growing older, being female, or having a family history of arthritis. But one can take steps to reduce the risk of arthritis or delay its onset.
Here’s how to keep your joints healthy as you age:
- Stay at a healthy weight. Extra pounds put pressure on weight-bearing joints like hips and knees. Each pound you gain adds nearly four pounds of stress on your knees and puts six times the pressure on your hips.
- Control your blood sugar. High blood sugar can stiffen the tissue that supports your joints and make them more sensitive to stress.
- Exercise. Just 30 minutes of exercise five times a week helps joints stay limber and strengthens the muscles that support your knees and hips. Focus on low-impact exercises like walking, cycling, or swimming.
- Stretch. Gentle stretching can improve your range of motion and keep your joints limber. Try to work in simple stretches every day.
- Avoid injury. An injured joint is more likely to develop arthritis than one that was never injured. Wear protective gear when playing sports and always lift with your knees and hips, not your back.
- Quit smoking. Smoking puts stress on tissues that protect your joints and can lead to arthritis pain.
- Eat fish twice a week. Eat fish high in Omega-3s, like salmon, trout, and mackerel. Omega-3s have many health benefits and may reduce inflammation.
- Get routine preventive care. Your doctor may be able to suggest lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk or slow the progress of arthritis.
In regards to this year, the theme encourages people living with arthritis to try even small amounts of physical activity, which they say can help them stay strong and remain independent. Being active can have a big impact on the health and well-being of people with arthritis.
All the above can be done through participating in joint-friendly physical activity that can improve your arthritis pain, function, mood, and quality of life. Joint-friendly physical activities are low-impact, which means they put less stress on the body, reducing the risk of injury.