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Exercise Recommendations for Muscle, Bone, & Joint Pain

Physical activity is safe and beneficial for older people...

Written by NIAMSD and the AAOS

Exercise recommendations:Healthcare providers believe, and research shows, that physical activity is safe and beneficial for older people, and those with health conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, or other chronic conditions, as well as for people recovering from surgery. In fact, the lack of activity can make a condition worse or difficult to live with.

Benefits of regular exercise:

  • slows the loss of muscle mass
  • strengthens bones
  • reduces joint and muscle pain
  • relieves joint stiffness
  • improves mobility and balance

Exercise does not have to be strenuous or vigorous. Just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity several times a week provides health benefits — even low-intensity activity. An exercise class is beneficial, but so is simply increasing daily activities including:

  • going for a brisk walk
  • working in the yard
  • going for a bike ride
  • walking the fairways when golfing
  • washing and waxing the car

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends, with the advice of their physicians, that people of all ages and abilities exercise to some degree, even those with these conditions or concerns.

Exercise and age: Physical activity is especially important for older adults because it can lower the risk of heart disease or heart attack, lower blood pressure, control diabetes, and help maintain a healthy weight level. It is never too late to start an exercise program.

Exercise also helps to protect us from some of the normal effects of aging, such as:

  • a loss of muscle and bone mass
  • a decrease in muscle size and strength — primarily due to inactivity
  • a decrease of bone mass and density — increasing the susceptibility to fractures
  • a loss of elasticity in tendons and ligaments
  • joint inflammation and cartilage degeneration

Exercise and chronic conditions of the muscles, bones, or joints:?If you have a chronic condition affecting your muscles, joints, or bones, lack of physical activity can make the condition worse or more difficult to live with. Medical research shows that physical activity is both safe and beneficial for people with arthritis, osteoporosis, and other chronic conditions of bones and joints.

Exercise and back pain:Although you should not exercise during an acute attack of back pain, your doctor may encourage you to get up and move around. Prolonged bed rest and inactivity may delay your recovery.

A balanced fitness program of regular physical activity and specific exercises can strengthen the muscles of the stomach, hips, and thighs, which can relieve chronic back pain, prevent the condition from getting worse, or prevent future attacks of pain.

Talk with your physician about staying in good physical condition by running, walking, swimming, bicycle riding, or weight lifting, as well as using correct techniques when sitting, standing, lifting and moving objects.

Exercise and arthritis:For persons with arthritis, any type of exercise will strengthen joints and the surrounding muscles. It also can relieve joint stiffness and reduce pain. Inactivity may aggravate the problem because weak muscles around the joints can lead to joint instability.

Exercise and osteoporosis:Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, and weight lifting can stimulate bone growth and make bones healthier. Regular exercise will also help maintain good balance, so that you are less likely to fall and suffer a disabling bone fracture. Stimulating bone growth and preventing bone loss through exercise should be part of your lifestyle — because once you stop, the benefits begin to diminish in two weeks and disappear in two to eight months.

Exercise and joint replacement:While recovering from joint replacement surgery, follow a graduated walking program and specific exercises prescribed by your orthopedic surgeon or physical therapist to restore movement and strengthen the muscles and ligaments surrounding the prosthesis. Normal, healthy levels of activity should not damage the prosthesis or joint replacement. In fact, to take full advantage of the surgery, you must stay active for the rest of your life.

Consult your physician to design a safe, effective exercise program, based on your individual condition.

Derived from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
Article Reviewed: January 9, 2016
Copyright © 2015 Healthy Magazine

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