Up to one in four people will develop symptomatic osteoarthritis of the hip, and almost one in two people will develop arthritis in the knee during their lifetime. Furthermore, in obese individuals, symptomatic knee arthritis affects every two out of three people. These numbers are startling and truly emphasize the need to lead a healthy lifestyle in order to reduce the risk of getting arthritis in the first place as well as to improve the associated symptoms once arthritis has developed.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is caused by the protective cartilage over your bones being worn out over time. While there is currently no cure for osteoarthritis, there are a number of strategies for slowing the progression of the disease.
In very extreme cases, hip or knee replacement surgery may be needed, but in general, physiotherapy or self-care is sufficient. The results of several scientific studies have shown that exercise is effective for relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis, and since obesity is a major risk factor for the disease, a combination of exercise and a healthy diet has been shown to be the best treatment.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive to exercise while in pain, physical activity will not only help you lose weight but also build muscle around the affected areas. It can also help reduce inflammation and swelling.
Studies have shown that strength training, balance training and water-based activities are the most effective for improving the function of the affected area and for reducing the knee pain or hip pain associated with osteoarthritis.
One of the most effective exercises for knee and hip arthritis is swimming. Swimming is well-tolerated by most people as it is a low-impact activity, and the high resistance of the water helps tone muscle. Other water-based exercises, such as aquatic fitness and water aerobics, are also highly effective. As an additional bonus, exercising in warm water will improve your blood circulation.
Walking and Cycling
Walking is one of the most straightforward exercises and can easily be implemented in your daily life. Instead of driving to work, why not walk or at least walk to a nearby bus station? Instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs. Walk your dog every day instead of just letting it out in the yard or even just take a 15 minute stroll around the neighborhood every now and again. It is just that easy.
Cycling is another great exercise as it involves low-impact, controlled movements and because it can be done either outside or at home or in the gym. Cycling has been shown to not only improve you cardiovascular health and to strengthen your leg muscles but also to result in increased knee joint mobility.
Stretching, Yoga and Tai Chi
Lastly, there are several different stretches that may aid with the symptoms of knee or hip arthritis, and your physical therapist can show you all of these. Stretching-based exercise programs such as yoga and tai chi can also help you improve your balance and strengthen and tone your leg muscles.
While there is currently no cure for osteoarthritis, by maintaining a healthy weight and by exercising regularly, the progression of arthritis can be slowed substantially, and you will also improve your general fitness and cardiovascular health. Sounds like a win-win situation.