Motion is Lotion

Author: Courtney Erickson-Adams, MD

If you experience joint or back pain, the last thing you may want to do is exercise. But experts agree that consistent movement is one of the most beneficial things you can do for joint disease. In celebration of Bone and Joint Action Week—sponsored by the U.S. Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI)—we’ll take a deeper look at the burden of joint disease, the benefits of exercise to address it, and how you can embrace a lifestyle of movement to improve your overall health.

The burden of bone and joint disease
According to the U.S. Bone and Joint Initiative: The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States, nearly 55 percent of Americans over the age of 18 are affected by bone and joint conditions like back pain and arthritis. Even more, the number of individuals requiring medical care to treat them continues to rise significantly. Since both life expectancy and risk factors continue to increase, this trend is expected to continue.

These conditions can impact an individual’s productivity at work, lead to significant disability, and have a negative impact on overall quality of life. When mobility is affected, they can contribute to other health conditions, too—like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression. The good news is that you can limit the impact of bone and joint disease upon your own life by taking a few simple steps—literally.

The benefits of exercise
Research shows how beneficial exercise is for individuals with joint disease—since it plays a critical role in decreasing pain, limiting joint deterioration, and improving overall health. This is due to a variety of factors that include:

  • Increased circulation of synovial fluid, which lubricates joints.
  • Increased blood flow to the joints, which helps to nourish synovial membranes.
  • Increased circulation of nutrients to the joints.
  • Activation of genes associated with cartilage repair.
  • Removal of cellular wastes.
  • Strengthening of muscles, ligaments, and tendons that provide a structure of support.

In addition to these joint-related specifics, regular exercise is good for other aspects of your health, too. Consider this list of benefits provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Weight control—since it can help you both lose and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease—which includes lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes—since it helps control risk factors and stabilizes blood sugar levels.
  • Reduced risk for some cancers—including colon and breast cancer.
  • Improved mental health and mood—by helping to keep mental skills sharp and reducing the risk of depression.
  • Improved ability to perform daily activities—as well as the prevention of falls.
  • Increased chances of living longer—since it has such a major impact on overall health.

Getting started
Now that you know how important regular exercise is for your bones, joints, and overall health—you’re eager to get started, right?

If regular exercise is something you’ve done in the past, then you may have little difficulty dusting off those old habits that were good for you. However, if you’ve been sedentary most of your life, then the concept may be overwhelming, at best.

The good news is that getting started can be as simple as you need it to be—and the first step should be to discuss your plans with your healthcare provider. Since each person’s needs are different, you’ll want to make sure you’re on the same page about what exercise routine is best for you.

Once you’ve done that, here are some specific steps you can take to embrace exercise as a regular part of daily life:

  • Create a plan—which includes the type of exercise and how often you’ll do it.
  • Be realistic—by setting short- and long-term goals that are achievable.
  • Partner up—with a friend or family member to help you remain motivated.
  • Keep a log—to chart your progress and remind yourself of how awesome you are.
  • Plan ahead—and be flexible when needed to help you stay on track.
  • Keep it simple—by choosing exercises you’ll enjoy. After all, the best exercise is the one that you’ll actually do.

Now that you understand the importance of regular exercise, you’ll soon be embracing “motion as lotion” to improve your overall health.