Bernice emailed me and wanted to guest post. I said sure! Bernice Spradlin is an avid hiker and runner. She works at a gym in Brooklyn, New York, where she gets great inspiration for her freelance health-related articles and blogs. In her off time, you can often find Bernice jogging the East River path along the waterfront and enjoying the cool breeze. Bernice is currently looking for freelance writing work, and can be contacted at BerniceG.Spradlin@gmail.com
Americans are in pretty bad shape—but regular physical activity can help
Shocking statistics and studies linked to bone, joint and muscle strength are constantly appearing in the media. Take for instance:
- The American Osteopathic Association reported that total costs associated with lower back pain in the U.S. exceed $100 billion per year in 2006. Even though Canadian drugs can be purchased cheaper online, that’s still a huge amount.
- A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association that revealed one in five Americans (or 20%) over age 65 die within a year of fracturing a hip.
- Or a statistic printed by the National Center for Health Statistics in 2006, which indicated more than 28 million people across the U.S. have some form of arthritis.
- While 24 million Americans are stricken with Osteoporosis—resulting in over 11 million bone fractures every year.
- And, don’t forget the 780,000 total joint replacement procedures are performed in the U.S. annually according to the National Hospital Discharge Survey.
- Or that 42 million American’s see their doctors multiple times a year for various back-related muscle pain.
If this is any indication, the bones, joints and muscles of Americans are in pretty poor shape. It makes sense that as we age, our bodies change—and we naturally lose strength in the muscles while the joints and bones thin and deteriorate. However, inactivity is the major culprit of loss of bone mass and density, increased joint inflammation and decreased elasticity in joint function, as well as deterioration in muscle tissue—leaving us susceptible to tears and strains.
However, an average of thirty minutes of exercise daily can prevent bones from thinning, joints from becoming stiff and muscles from injury. Even if you have a chronic condition like osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, a fitness program will help strengthen bones, joints and supporting muscles.
There are three major issues that inflict the bones and weight bearing joints:
- Osteoarthritis—affects the knees, hips, and spine
- Rheumatoid arthritis—limits the hands, wrist, feet, and ankles
- Osteoporosis—is a weakening of the bones as we age, which results in loss of bone mass, and thinning bones become susceptible to fractures
The following types of exercise can help slow the deterioration and weakening of bones:
- Moderate, weight-bearing exercise performed three to four times a week
- Gentle resistance exercises, including walking, hiking, aqua aerobics, stair climbing, tennis and squash, running on a treadmill or using an elliptical machine
- Resistance training exercises with light dumbbells or resistance bands
- Avoid exercises with heavy impact to the bones—including step or plyometric (jumping) aerobic workouts, hard running, or competitive gymnastics
Rheumatoid arthritis is one disease that commonly affects small joints in the hands, wrist, feet, and ankles and causes severe debilitating pain. When arthritis worsens, the only remedy to relieve the pain of arthritis is a total joint replacement surgery to the area affected—commonly the hip, knee joints, ankle, shoulder, fingers, and even the elbow.
Individuals with sore, still joints, and even those who have undergone joint replacement surgery should follow a regiment of gentle, exercise after surgery, including:
- Gentle, weight-bearing exercise to help keep replaced joints and cartilage tissue strong and flexible
- Regular activity will also aid in pain reduction
- Your doctor will likely prescribe a balanced exercise program with a mixture of walking, aquatics, cycling, and gentle yoga and stretching
- Again, any activities that place repeated stress on the replacement, like running, jogging, skiing or tennis should be avoided
If you remember the statistic above, lower back pain is the leading reason why patients over 42 million American’s saw their doctors last year. Back pain can be caused by excessive and repetitive strain on the back muscles, improper lifting techniques, or even sudden jolting movements. However, the root of the pain is weak muscles.
Exercise is typically prescribed for patients with low back pain in order to increase muscle strength so the spine has improved support, flexibility and function. Try these exercises to strengthen weak back muscles:
- Stretch the low back daily by laying flat on the floor with legs extended and arms over the head
- As your back muscles grow stronger, you will need to introduce light resistance exercises such as swimming, cycling and strength training, e.g., back lifts using body weight resistance
- As you grow stronger you can incorporate light weights or resistance bands