Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when the smooth cartilage in your body’s joints become worn out or damaged. Sometimes an injury can lead to OA, but OA often results from wear and tear on your joints over time.
OA tends to develop in the knees, hips, lower back, neck, and hands. And the joints become inflamed, causing pain and stiffness.
An official diagnosis of obesity is based on your body mass index (BMI). This is calculated using your gender, height, and weight.
A BMI score of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal weight, and being overweight is defined as having a score of 25 to 29.9. A BMI score of 30 or higher is considered obese.
Obesity and OA can be a vicious cycle. Carrying extra weight causes more stress on your joints and tends to accelerate the onset of OA. But physical activity is key to weight loss, so joint pain associated with arthritis can make it even more difficult to drop those extra pounds.
Exercise is possible with arthritis, but you may need the help of a professional trainer or physical therapist.
You may be surprised by the amount of pressure your body weight puts on your joints. For every 10 pounds of extra weight you carry, an additional 30 to 60 pounds of force is placed on your knees with each step, according to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center.
The same source says that overweight men are five times as likely to develop knee OA as men of healthy weight are. Overweight women are four times as likely to develop knee OA.
Obesity is one of several factors that can contribute to OA, and age is another big factor. The older you get, the more wear and tear you put on your joints.
Some people may inherit bone problems that make them more susceptible to arthritis. Also, weak muscles, particularly those around the knees, may contribute to OA. Those joints take more of the weight without having strong muscle support around them.
A mixed regimen of calorie burning cardiovascular exercises and muscle strengthening exercises can counter the effects of OA. More exercise and a lower calorie intake can help bring about weight loss.
Losing extra weight helps remove pressure on your joints. These activities can help lower your risk of developing OA, or at least cause a reduction in symptoms.
Exercises that strengthen muscles around the joints will also help delay the onset of OA and can help you better cope with the condition.
It might seem like jumping rope and other high-impact activities would be harmful to joints with OA. But a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found the opposite. Postmenopausal women with mild OA experienced improved bone strength and greater mobility after doing supervised jumping exercises three days a week for a year.
If you have OA and plan to exercise, check with your doctor about any precautions you should take.
Losing weight can take time, but even moderate weight loss can ease the discomfort of OA, and can also lower your risk of developing it.
Weight loss also helps reduce your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Set a realistic goal of losing one to two pounds a week through increased physical activity and reduced calorie intake. Your joints and the rest of your body will thank you.