Seniors and fitness


Arthritis and Exercise: A Healthy Mix That Can Reduce Pain, Increase Mobility

Baptist Health Orthopedic Care

If you suffer from some type of arthritis, participating in joint-friendly physical activity can improve your arthritic pain, function – and even your mood and quality of life, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the U.S., the CDC estimates that about 24 percent of adults have some form of arthritis.

Arthritis represents the No. 1 cause of disability in the U.S. Physicians with Baptist Health South Florida who treat patients with arthritis will undoubtedly have a discussion about incorporating regular exercise into their lives — with certain considerations to avoid overuse injuries or otherwise aggravating existing conditions. 

Juan Carlos Suarez, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care.

Even the most qualified surgeons will advise patients about physical activity — in hopes of avoiding surgery or improve the outcome of recovery from surgery. Juan Carlos Suarez, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care, is one of them – a proponent of aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises, the types of which depend on the degree and type of arthritis.

“Exercise is good for joint health as a whole,” explains Dr. Suarez. “Mobility, weight-bearing, strengthening -- all those help the joints function better and gives the joint more longevity in a painless way. Now, when you have an injured joint or you have arthritis on a joint, then you have to modify the exercises that you do so that you accommodate the needs of that joint.”

For example, he adds, people ask: "Is it okay to run?” His response: “Well, running is not bad if your joints are not injured. But long-distance running on an injured joint, such as a knee or hip, can accelerate the arthritic process. So, you have to individualize things. Generally, however, maintaining good joint health includes exercise and mobility.”

For decades, the benefits of exercise for everyone are well documented. Physical activity on a regular basis is vital for weight management, cardiovascular health and fending off chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers, studies have shown.

Additionally, exercise combined with proper nutrition can help people achieve ideal weight. That’s critical because being overweight or obese increases the risk of knee osteoarthritis, compared to those who are not overweight. physical activity can decrease pain and improve physical function by about 40 percent, says the CDC. Still, 1 in 3 adults with arthritis are inactive.

The type of exercise to undertake depends on an individual’s tolerance, which is often associated with age.

If you're on the younger side of things and you're not injured, your joints are not injured, then running, cycling, anything that keeps them moving is good. Now, low-impact exercises like cycling, swimming are probably better for your joints, especially if they're injured or arthritic than high-impact activities like running. Other things that are very good are Pilates and yoga that promote motion and flexibility because one of the things that happens when you have an arthritic joint is you lose mobility and those types of exercise at least helps maintain the mobility.

Only 28 percent of Americans meet both aerobic and muscle-strengthening guidelines set by U.S. public health officials, according to a recent report from the CDC.

Dr. Suarez insists that any exercise is better than none, and at least 20 minutes a day can yield physical and mental health benefits. Both the CDC and the American Heart Association recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week. They also recommend moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weights) on at least two days per week.

“If you look from a cardiovascular standpoint, at least 20 minutes a day -- everybody should be exercising that much,” he says. “We all have busy lives and it's tough. But if you can squeeze in at least 20 minutes a day, that's really beneficial.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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