Sports and exercise if employed correctly can help us lead a much healthier lifestyle
Many people especially women in their later years suffer from arthritis. There are more than one hundred types of arthritis, however the most common of them is Osteoarthritis.
Some people call it a degenerative joint disease or "wear and tear" arthritis. It usually happens when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of our bones wears down with time. Some of the causes of osteoarthritis include old age, obesity, genetics, metabolic diseases like diabetes, and injuries. Osteoarthritis is quite uncomfortable. If not managed well, it causes pain, stiffness, instability, and disability that can interfere with work and mobility, in turn diminishing the quality of life.
I am not a doctor, so before you start sending me requests for diagnosis, my concern today is to simply point out the correlation between osteoarthritis, sports, and exercise, and what it means in managing the ailment.
To understand this, medical research tells us that sports or exercise do not directly cause osteoarthritis but rather the injuries and accidents incurred during sports, increase the risk of it.
Even injuries that occurred many years ago and seemingly healed can increase your risk of osteoarthritis. Sometimes we are not even aware that we injured our ankles but they say the body never forgets.
Overall, injuries related to sports that can trigger post-traumatic arthritis include sprains, knee injuries, cartilage tears, fractures, and dislocations.
Many sports require repetitive motion that can cause strain and even injury to the joints or the cartilage that surrounds them, and this is where the risk of arthritis comes in.
In general, if you are participating in a low impact sport with a low chance of joint injury or muscle tear, you are probably in the clear. If you are a runner for example, and at some point, the constant pounding on your knees impacts the cartilage or you tear cartilage during a bad step on uneven ground, osteoarthritis can develop as a long-term consequence.
The best way to prevent risk of experiencing the disease among professional sports people or people in the fitness arena is not to ‘overdo it'. It is very unwise to overuse the human body, no matter how athletic you feel because sooner or later that repetitive motion is going to catch up with you. Give your body a break when it asks for it! Additionally, for those who get injured, rushing back into activity or trying to play through pain is not advisable. Listen to your body, it has a way of telling you that it is not ready.
Another point to take home is stretching and strengthening. Stretching consistently is vital in this argument. Proper stretching before participating in active sports, activities at the gym or those simple exercises you do at home, keeps your bones loose, which in turn reduces the risk of injuries around your joints. It is also important to strengthen the muscles around your joints, too.
It has also been widely researched that shading off excess weight can be a reliever to so many ailments including arthritis. The right weight for your size can slow down the effects of arthritis. Extra kilos place disproportionate stress on the knees, causing a lot of pain and discomfort.
To obtain ideal weight, combine appropriate physical activity, a positive mindset and a diet that is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and foods that can help boost your immune system.
One of the uncomfortable truths of ageing is determining whether or not the activities we love to do are good for us in the long run. It can therefore be a daunting task that when diagnosed with arthritis, you are advised to take up low impact sports in place of activities that you have been enjoying.
But it has been widely researched that people suffering from any form of arthritis can greatly benefit from maintaining fitness and muscular strengthening. Doctors highly recommend engaging in low-impact activities like swimming, cycling, and walking depending on the age and intensity of your pain.
Besides this, invest in a good pair of walking shoes that fit and have specific cushioning to aid in shock absorption.
Finally, let me emphasise that sports and exercise if employed correctly can help us lead a much healthier lifestyle.
l The writer, Mariam Mell'Osiime is a sports activist with a master's in sports management from Real Madrid Graduate School.
The writer is an analyst on SportsWoman that airs Thursday at 2.30pm on Urban TV.