How Losing Weight Can Improve Arthritis

How Losing Weight Can Improve Arthritis

Arthritis often occurs when the cartilage in your joints begins to deteriorate, leaving the ends of your bones exposed and allowing them to rub together painfully. Arthritis symptoms include pain, stiffness and inflammation in the joints. Obesity can contribute to arthritis, since it increases the amount of pressure on the joints. Conversely, losing weight can help improve your arthritis symptoms; here's how.

Causes and Symptoms of Arthritis

Arthritis usually occurs when the cartilage in your joints begins to deteriorate. Your cartilage is there for a reason; it helps protect, cushion and lubricate your joints, so that they can move smoothly and freely, without pain. When cartilage deteriorates, friction can occur between the ends of your bones, causing arthritis. 

There are a number of causes of arthritis. Immune disorders, infections and joint injuries can contribute to this condition. Arthritis can also occur due to general wear and tear on the joints. If you are overweight or obese, you're at a higher risk for arthritis, since your excess body weight is putting excess strain on your joints.

Symptoms of arthritis include pain and swelling in the affected joint or joints. The skin of the arthritic joint may appear red, and the joint may swell. It could feel warm to the touch and may be difficult to move. Stiffness and decreased range of motion are common symptoms of arthritis.

How Weight Loss and Exercise Can Help

If excess body weight increases strain on the joints and contributes to arthritis, it only stands to reason that losing weight can relieve some of that strain and improve symptoms. Exercise can help increase bone and muscle strength, which can help to stabilize joints and improve arthritic symptoms, especially when arthritis occurs as the result of an injury.

Exercise can help increase your energy levels to reduce fatigue, and since it releases serotonin and endorphins in the brain, it can help relieve pain. Regular, gentle exercise can also help improve joint mobility.

Exercise Right to Improve Arthritis

While it's true that weight loss and exercise can help improve your arthritis symptoms, you don't want to jump into a strenuous exercise regimen, and you should be careful about which exercises you choose. Lean toward low-impact aerobic exercises, like swimming or water aerobics. If you are capable of walking long distances, then walking is a good exercise too.

Low-impact exercises minimize the strain on your joints, so that they won't make your pain and other symptoms worse. Higher impact exercises often can't help you relieve arthritis symptoms by losing weight, because of the risk that they can worsen your condition and make losing weight harder.

Exercise isn't the only element of weight loss. You'll need to follow a healthy diet of lean meats, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables. Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants like vitamin E can help naturally reduce your pain and inflammation. Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements can help your body regenerate cartilage to improve arthritis symptoms.