Exercise For At Least An Hour A Week
Arthritis has been a bit of a conundrum to doctors and scientists. Until recently, they thought that a lifetime of exercising made people more vulnerable to the disease, since studies showed a higher risk of joint injuries, not exercise itself, account from the difference. In fact, there’s growing evidence that exercise can prevent problems by building up muscles that protect joints.
In one Australian study of middle-aged and older women, those who got 2.5 hours of exercise per week cut their odds of developing arthritic joints by about 40 percent. Exercising an hour a week lowered risk by about 30 percent. Stretching exercises help, too.
Add Strength Training
Strengthening your muscles by using any form of so-called resistance training (using light hand weights, elastic bands, or machines at the gym or doing home exercises that use your own body weight as resistance–think knee bends) nay shield joints from damage. In one study, women with stronger thigh muscles had 55 percent lower risk of developing knee arthritis and an amazing 64 percent lower risk for arthritis of the hips than women with weaker thigh muscles.
Getting stronger helps if you already have arthritis, too. When Tufts University researchers tested a gentle, at-home strength-training program for older men and women with moderate to severe knee osteoarthritis, the results surprised and pleased study volunteers. After 16 weeks, exercisers had 36 percent less pain and 38 percent less disability.
Experts say gentle strength training can also dampen the pain and disability rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which occurs when the immune system attacks the tissues that protect bones. In a study from Finland, people with mild RA who followed a home strength-training program for two years saw pain decline by 67 percent and disability drop by 50 percent.
Women who smoked cigarettes raised their risk of developing RA by 30 percent in one Harvard study of 121,700 nurses. Smoking doubled the risk of the disease in another study of 30,000 women. Tobacco may provoke immune system changes that lead to an attack joints, Swedish researchers say. The good news women who had quit smoking had no extra risk after 10 years.