June 20, 2011

No more excuses; exercise and knees

If you have been using bad knees as a reason to avoid exercise, it is time to find another excuse.  Traditional wisdom has held that running and weight lifting can cause or worsen osteoarthritis.  However, a recent study (1) found that physical activity is associated with improved cartilage health.  This study included long distance runners, soccer players and weight lifters.  Another study (2), found that people over age 65 with osteoarthritis of the knee, who began a program of Tai Chi (a traditional Chinese style of marital arts), had improved function and less pain.  Step aerobics became a huge group exercise phenomenon after an exercise instructor realized that her knee rehab program of stepping up and down a raised platform was giving her a great aerobic workout. 
This does not mean you should ignore knee pain and go run a 5K, but you should not dismiss exercise as impossible.  Get clearance from a physician first.  If you have had severe or chronic pain, you may want to consider physical therapy.  Start any new program slowly, with gradual increases in distance or intensity.  Keep in mind, that while exercise can be instrumental in fighting knee problems, the best way most people can relieve knee pain is to lose weight.

1.Chenchen Wang, Christopher H. Schmid, Patricia L. Hibberd, Robert Kalish, Ronenn Roubenoff, Ramel Rones, and Timothy McAlindon. Tai Chi Is Effective in Treating Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 2008; 16S32 DOI: 10.1016/S1063-4584(08)60092-8
2. Wiley-Blackwell (2009, November 1). Tai Chi Exercise Reduces Knee Osteoarthritis  Pain In The Elderly, Research Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 12, 2011, from­ /releases/2009/10/091029102417.htm

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