Everybody benefits from exercise
Exercising has many positive effects on your health. Physical fitness refers to traits that make a person healthy or unhealthy. These traits mostly relate to the heart, greater blood vessels and muscle mass, and less fat mass. A good level of physical fitness will leave you less tired after exercising. You may also experience improved sleep, sense of wellbeing, and find it easier to cope with everyday life. Here is how exercise will improve your body’s structures:
- Heart and vessels
Exercising makes the heart stronger and able to pump more blood with each beat. This means that work can be performed with a lower heart rate and less load on the heart. Exercising will help your body grow more small blood vessels. This will lower your blood pressure and improve blood flow to your muscles. Muscles will then have more energy to work longer.
Muscles are made up of muscle fibers. When you move, your brain sends electrical impulses to these fibers. This causes your muscles to contract, which moves your bones and creates movement. Exercise will boost the number of muscle fibers that contract. Your muscles fibers will grow, which will lead to larger muscles. Exercise also improves the speed in which your brain sends the electrical impulses to your muscles. Overall, this leads to more strength and better ability to perform activities.
Bones are similar to muscles in that they get stronger with more load applied. When muscles carry a load or contract, pressure is applied to the bones. Your bones will adapt and increase their density in response. In adolescent years, bones are in a state of growth. More exercise during these years will create stronger bones for later life. You can build bone strength through weight bearing or non-weight bearing exercises like swimming.
Exercise will change your appetite and your body’s energy metabolism. Fat weighs less than muscle. Since regular exercise makes your muscles grow, you might only see slight weight loss. However, the amount of fat in your body is reducing, and the amount of functional muscle is increasing. Decreasing your weight if you are overweight will take load off the joints and make it easier to do everyday activities. Weight loss often leads to other positive health effects like lowering your risk of diabetes and lowering stress on the heart and vessels.
Exercising at a high heart rate is good for weight loss. However, you can also exercise at a moderate heart rate and be successful in losing weight. The most important thing is that you feel good and want to continue doing your exercises.
- Pain relief
During exercise, your body releases endorphins, which is your body’s natural form of morphine. The release of endorphins results in less pain and increased feelings of well-being. Exercise can also reduce pain through loading the sensory systems. The brain is busy taking in the information from joints and muscles instead of impulses from pain nerves.
- Everyone, regardless of injury, illness or age should aim to be physically active for 30 minutes a day.
- These 30 minutes can be done in 10 minute bouts. At least twice a week, these bouts should be 20 minutes long and either maintain or increase in intensity.
- These activities should be slightly difficult and be done on top of your normal everyday activities. This is needed to maintain good health and prevent diseases (e.g. diabetes, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure among others).
These recommendations apply to people with osteoarthritis. The ideal type and amount of exercise depends on the person’s age, abilities, functional limitations, and health status. If you have not been physically active in the past, it may be a good idea to start slowly. See how you feel, and then gently increase the intensity.
Exercising also benefits the cartilage
Exercising has added benefit for people with osteoarthritis.
- Nutrients are pumped in and out of the cartilage when it is loaded and unloaded. This promotes growth and reformation of the cartilage which boosts its strength.
- Exercising will have your joints moving through their range of motion. This will make it easier to do everyday things you used to have trouble with (putting on socks, climbing stairs, getting in and out of the car).
- Exercise helps build stronger muscles, which helps make daily activities easier.
- Exercising will train your coordination; the ability to use the right muscles at the right time with the right amount of force. This will make it easier to control movements like walking on uneven ground.
The benefits of exercise disappear when you stop exercising. To keep the effects of exercise, you have to keep exercising regularly. This is why it’s important to do exercises that you enjoy. This will help make exercise part of your daily routine. Examples of exercises that might work well are: walking, Nordic pole walking, aquatic (water) exercises, dancing, cycling, and strength training.
Is it okay to exercise when it hurts?
If you have osteoarthritis and start exercising, you might start to feel pain. The pain may last a while, but it’s not dangerous to keep exercising. Everybody reacts to pain differently. Some people stop activities completely and rest as much as they can. This can lead to even more lost function. Some people ignore pain signals, which can lead to more injuries.
It’s normal to feel a bit of pain when exercising. You may have a bit of muscle soreness if you haven’t used these muscles regularly, or have some joint pain. The muscle soreness will decrease as you get used to exercising. The joint pain should not go over your acceptable limit of pain (see Figure 4). The joint pain should lessen 24 hours after exercise to the same level as before exercise. These pain limits will be different for everyone and can change over time. Lower the intensity of your exercise if joint pain goes over your acceptable limit or continues for over 24 hours.
It’s important to listen to your body and strike a balance when exercising. Focus on your exercise goals to distract yourself from the pain. Don’t forget to have fun!
At SquareOne we have Physiotherapists who have been specifically trained to deliver the osteoarthritis program called GLA:D Australia Program. This global program is research-based and provides education and exercise for those with hip or knee arthritis.
If you have been told you might have OA of the hip or knee, why not make an appointment to see our osteoarthritis physio to find out if the program is right for you.