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Diet & Exercise for Healthy Joints
A joint is the point at which two or more bones are joined together. They can either be rigid joints, like those in the skull, or mobile joints, like those in our knees, hips, or shoulders. When joints are unhealthy or don’t function properly, this often results in pain. Arthritis, defined as any disorder that affects the joints, affects one in every five adults and is the leading cause of disability. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis and is commonly seen in older adults. Recent research has indicated that both diet and exercise can have an impact on OA progression and symptom severity.
Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health. Although it is found naturally in a handful of foods, most of our vitamin D intake occurs through skin exposure to sunlight. A recent study examined vitamin D levels as a predictor for OA in the knee. All subjects had at least one symptomatic knee at baseline. Subjects were tested at baseline and again at 30 or 36 months. Researchers found that subjects with lower levels of vitamin D had a 2-fold risk of progressing OA in the knee. Exercise is sometimes painful for people with OA, however a recent review showed that certain exercises may actually improve symptoms in those with hip OA. Subjects in the experimental groups used land-based (no water aerobics) therapeutic exercises. Compared to the non exercise group, those who exercised reported an 8% reduction in pain and a 7% improvement in physical function. Research has also found that obese patients with knee OA who maintained weight loss reported fewer symptoms compared to baseline levels. Investigators compared different types of weight maintenance programs, with participants in either a dietary intervention group or a knee exercise program group. They found that symptom improvement was similar regardless of treatment type, suggesting that weight loss is the key component to better outcomes.