It's easy to come up with excuses not to exercise. One of these—that exercise is hard on the joints and may cause arthritis—has been hard to dispel. Recent studies show that exercise can be safe for joints, both in older, overweight folks and in athletes, reports the September 2009 issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch.
Between 1993 and 2005, the famed Framingham study found no link between exercise and arthritis of the knee. The most active people in this cohort had the same risk of arthritis as the least active. Although the Framingham study did not confirm that exercise is good for the joints, an Australian study did just that in 2004. It showed that people who performed the most vigorous weight-bearing exercise had the thickest, healthiest knee cartilage. In 2008, another study, which compared runners to nonrunners, found little evidence that exercise causes arthritis.
Not only is exercise safe for healthy joints, it is also safe for arthritic joints. Still, exercise can have side effects. If you don't already exercise and want to start, start gradually. If your general health is good, you don't need to see your doctor before starting. But older people and those with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or other significant problems should get medical clearance first. Above all, listen to your body as you exercise.
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