In the UK, more than 10 million people have arthritis or similar conditions that affect the joints. Osteoarthritis causes a breakdown of the tissue that cushions where bones meet to form a joint. This breakdown leads to the bones to rubbing together, causing pain, inflammation and swelling.
Whilst there are many different reasons why someone may suffer from arthritis, one cause of tissue breakdown is mechanical stress from excess weight on the knees or other joints. The knees and other joints in the lower half of the body, such as the hips, bear the most load. It therefore stands to reason that years of carrying excess weight can lead to stiff, aching, arthritic joints.
Reduce Pain & Improve Function
Recent research documented in the National Institute of Health shows that weight loss of 20% can help reduce arthritis-related knee-pain in people who are overweight or obese. In a randomized controlled trial, weight loss from both diet and exercise reduced pain and inflammation and helped adults walk faster and function better. Not only does losing weight reduce the pain in the joints, it also appears to improve the function.
It is now well-known that arthritis is closely linked to inflammation in the body. Being obese or overweight causes systemic inflammation, as does the highly processed foods associated with poor diets. By improving the diet to include plenty of whole foods, healthy fats and plants, you are also supporting your body in reducing inflammation.
How can you lighten the load?
Healthy eating and exercise are the best way to ensure you can meet an ideal weight for your body to function at its best. Many people feel overwhelmed with the idea of giving their diet a complete overhaul, however just making a few small changes can make a big difference;
- Aim to reduce snacking and ensure your main meals are filling enough to sustain you
- Research shows simply reducing the number of hours you are eating per day can help you lose weight – having periods of regularly fasting for 12–16 hours (e.g. overnight) may dramatically impact body weight.
- Aim to eat 8 portions of vegetables & fruit per day – you are more likely to eat less processed food if you focus on wholefoods
Exercise can be difficult if you already have arthritis – therefore taking the weight off by using the swimming pool can be helpful. Water aerobics, swimming and walking laps can be a great way to get your body moving. The water not only creates resistance to activate your muscles, but also allows your body to float, taking the pressure off the joints which cause you pain.
As with many things in health, prevention is the best treatment. Protect your joints long-term by losing weight when you can still be active. Seeking support from professionals such as Personal Trainers, Chiropractors or Nutritional Therapists can also help you get the best personalised advice for your own weight loss and arthritis journey.
Feeling better overall
Losing weight and adopting a healthy lifestyle goes so much further than reducing knee pain. After losing weight through diet and exercise, study participants also reported an improved quality of life that went beyond the specific joints causing pain.
Suffering with arthritis can be hugely life changing but there are ways in which can help ease the pain. Making some simple lifestyle changes may help alleviate some of the strain.