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Move little bits often – try modified exercises like walking jacks

The “3 fab facts for happy joints for people living with osteoarthritis” infographic from this issue of JointHealth™ insight provides effective, at-home techniques to help you move more, manage pain and feel better with osteoarthritis:

Every movement count and you can modify existing exercises according to your skills and abilities, and with the consult of an exercise specialist, your doctor or a physical therapist. The walking jacks is an alternative to the jumping jacks. This exercise is good for those who are unable to do a jumping jack due to physical limitations, injury, joint pain, or poor coordination.

Image from: Kate Delaware, Pinterest
Image from: Kate Delaware, Pinterest

Steps to do a walking jack:

1) Starting position: stand and hold your chest high, then engage your core for balance and strength

2) Step out wide to the side with your right foot, while swinging both arms out and around to extend straight up overhead. If you are unable to reach beyond your shoulders, raise your arms to shoulder height only.

3) Once the leading foot is stable, follow through by stepping the left leg in close and swinging the arms back down to your starting position.

4) Repeat the movement going the opposite direction.

Do you currently practice other modified exercises? Please share your exercise with us in the comments section below.

Get moving with arthritis

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis affecting the knees, hips, feet, spine, and hands. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and is caused by the breakdown in cartilage in the joints, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Cartilage is a protein substance that acts as a cushion between bones in joints, allowing joints to function smoothly. Risk factors for OA include a family history of the disease, excess body weight, joint injury, repeated overuse of joint, and age.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Marcy O’Koon, senior consumer health director at the Arthritis Foundation, said: “A joint like the knee joint doesn’t have a blood supply, so it needs movement to swish around the fluids that deliver nutrients to the cartilage and other tissues.”

Sports medicine doctor Gabe Mirkin added: “Exercise should be part of treatment for most arthritis because inactivity increases joint damage. Choose a non-impact sport like walking, cycling, swimming or cross-country skiing, or use exercise machines that support your feet, so they don’t pound the ground.”

Speak to your doctor to determine the best exercise treatment plan for your disease. To help motivate yourself, find an exercise buddy and schedule your exercise into your daily routine. Start with a light warmup, such as stretching and range of motion exercises, to get past the discomfort. Increase intensity or duration of exercise when you feel comfortable doing so. Below are some exercises and tips to consider:

  1. Walking – It is simple, low-impact, and requires no special equipment or facility. Walking helps to build cardiovascular fitness and strength, reduces pain, and improves mood. Consider using walking poles.
  2. Aquatic exercises – Common aquatic exercises include water walking and water jogging. These exercises are low-impact and strengthen many of the same muscles as the land equivalent versions.
  3. Yoga – Helps to reduce knee pain and stiffness and enhance physical functioning. Talk to your healthcare professionals to determine the best yoga exercises for your disease. Avoid doing poses that put too much pressure on one foot and leg or bend the knee too far.
  4. Exercise in moderation – If you are an experienced athlete living with arthritis pain, consider adjusting your exercise routines – going for shorter distances, decreasing intensity and frequency of exercise, or biking instead of running.
  5. Use of exercise tools – Tools such as walking poles, knee braces and cushioned footwear can alleviate the stress and weight on your knees.
  6. Proper preparation – Applying a heating pad or hot pack to your joints or taking a warm shower or bath before exercising can help loosen your muscles and joints. If you plan to exercise outdoor, plan according to the weather. Stay hydrated while you exercise. When exercising in a gym, ensure you know how to work the equipment.

O’Koon’s words of encouragement: “Getting started is tough for people with arthritis, no doubt about it. But once you become consistent, exercise is self-reinforcing, because it gets easier, you lose weight, you gain strength, you experience less pain, and you feel better emotionally.”

a woman brisk walking alongside a wall

Could walking faster mean living longer?

A study recently published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings has found that walking briskly could add 10-20 years to your life! The project was co-authored by Tom Yates, professor of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and health at the University of Leicester and Dr. Francesco Zaccardi, clinical epidemiologist at the University of Leicester. 

The study lasted for over 10 years and included nearly 475,000 participants. Researchers wanted to see how different measures of physical fitness – specifically walking pace and hand grip strength – are associated with life expectancy, across different levels of obesity. This research area was chosen because there is ongoing debate about the importance of physical fitness and obesity on health outcomes. Researchers measured participant’s walking paces (slow, normal/steady, brisk/fast), hand grip strength and relative body weight using different measures of obesity including body mass index (BMI). Body Mass Index is the measure of body fat based on height and weight and is often used as a key indicator in determining an individual’s health.

Interestingly, the authors found that a person’s walking pace of slow, steady or brisk, was a more powerful predictor of one’s life expectancy than BMI was. Participants who reported having a brisk walking pace had a long-life expectancy, regardless of their BMI. Women’s life expectancy in this category ranged from 86.7 to 87.8 years and men ranged from 85.2 to 86.8 years. Individuals who reported slow walking paces had the slowest life expectancy with 72.4 years for women and 64.8 years for men.

“The findings suggest that perhaps physical fitness is a better indicator of life expectancy than BMI and that encouraging the population to engage in brisk walking may add years to their lives,” stated Yates.

It’s important to note that the study involved self-reported walking paces. It’s possible that there may be an inconsistency between what the researchers would define as slow, steady and brisk walking and what participants considered slow, steady or brisk walking. Nevertheless, this research serves as more scientific evidence for the power of walking!

In July of 2019, many news stations covered the fascinating findings from this study. In Globe and Mail’s coverage, Gareth Nock, national team training coach, provided readers with some “Proper Walking Tips”:

  • Wear the right shoes: Look for sneakers or walking shoes that are flexible and have a good level of support.
  • Watch your posture: Stand tall with your eyes up and your shoulders back. Many people tend to let their heads fall forward so focus on rolling your shoulders back and down and looking ahead. Focus on drawing your navel towards your spine (abdominals braced) to support your lower back and overall posture.
  • Swing your arms: Arms should swing naturally and loosely from the shoulders. Move the opposite arm to the leg that is stepping forward and keep your wrists straight, your hands unclenched and your elbows close to your sides.