Baylor College of Medicine News

Fitness and weight management key in arthritis treatment

While rest and relaxation used to be the prescription for those suffering from arthritis, physicians are now recommending a more active lifestyle to maintain range of motion in the joints. According to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine, staying active is key in preventing and treating osteoarthritis.

"Weight management is a major part of managing arthritis, particularly knee arthritis. If you are overweight or obese, then the incidence of arthritis goes up significantly," said Dr. Melvyn Harrington, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at BCM.

Losing five pounds can save the knees from feeling 15 to 20 pounds of pressure. About four times your body weight is carried through the hips and knees – so someone who is 25 pounds overweight is carrying 100 extra pounds on their hips and knees everyday, said Harrington.

"The best way to minimize the risk of knee arthritis is to keep your weight down and avoid injuring the knee," said Harrington.

A good form of exercise is water aerobics because of the weightless environment. It can help with flexibility, muscle tone, general strength and cardiovascular health, said Harrington.

Researchers have shown a direct relationship between obesity and presentation of knee arthritis. They found that patients who are obese or morbidly obese show signs of wear and tear on the knees eight to fifteen years earlier than normal weight patients. This can eventually result in the need for knee replacement surgery.

A healthy weight is the best defense against knee injury and arthritis.