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Image: Exercise improves arthritis symptoms, down to the cellular level

(Natural News) Exercise is important for living a healthy life, and a new study encourages people, particularly those with osteoarthritis, to exercise more. Yes, people with osteoarthritis can and should exercise.

Published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, the study suggested that exercise can help prevent the degradation of cartilage caused by osteoarthritis. To be more specific, the study showed for the first time how mechanical forces experienced by cells in joints during exercise protect cartilage against degradation by suppressing the action of inflammatory molecules that cause osteoarthritis. The findings of the study demonstrated the benefits of exercise on the tissues that form the joints and how it affects tiny hair-like structures called primary cilia found on living cells.

During exercise, the cartilage in the joints such as the hip and knee is squashed. The living cells in the cartilage detect this mechanical distortion and suppress the action of inflammatory molecules associated with conditions like arthritis.

The study’s researchers, who were from the Queen Mary University of London, explained that this anti-inflammatory effect of physical activity occurs due to the activation of a specific protein known as HDAC6. This protein triggers changes in the proteins that form primary cilia. Changes in the length of the primary cilia, which are only a few 1000th of a millimeter, served as a biomarker of the level of inflammation. When inflamed, cilia get longer.

“We have known for some time that healthy exercise is good for you — now we know the process through which exercise prevents cartilage degradation,” said Su Fu, one of the authors of the study.

The researchers hope that their findings will help in the search for treatments for arthritis. Today, about 54 million adults in the U.S. suffer from some form of arthritis. And the most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which affects approximately 31 million Americans.

More on physical activity and osteoarthritis

Exercise is considered the most effective natural treatment for relieving pain and improving movement in people with osteoarthritis. Different forms of exercise play a role in maintaining and improving the ability of a person with this condition to move and function. Here are some of the exercises that people with osteoarthritis may try:

  • Flexibility exercises – Doing flexibility or range of motion exercises regularly can help people with osteoarthritis move their joints fully as they help maintain and enhance the flexibility in the joints. These exercises include gentle stretching and movements that take joints through their full span.
  • Strength training – Strengthening exercises help maintain and enhance muscle strength. Strong muscles are needed to support and protect joints that are affected by arthritis.
  • Aerobic or endurance exercises – Aerobic or endurance exercises include cycling, jogging, walking, swimming, or using the elliptical machine. These exercises strengthen the heart and increase the efficiency of the lungs. In addition, these exercises reduce fatigue and build stamina. Aerobic exercise also helps in weight management by increasing the number of calories the body uses. Walking is particularly beneficial for most people with osteoarthritis as it is easy on the joints and offers many health benefits, such as reducing the risk of fractures and toning muscles that support joints.
  • Aquatic or water exercises – Aquatic or water exercises are great for people just starting to exercise and those who are overweight. These do not include swimming but instead are performed while standing in about shoulder-height water. The water helps reduce the pressure of the body’s weight on the affected joints, particularly the hips and knees. At the same time, it provides resistance that strengthens the muscles. (Related: Time to get in a pool! Aquatic exercise relieves pain in arthritic patients.)

Generally, flexibility exercises should be done every day. Low-impact exercises such as walking are smart choices, but if you run, play basketball, or perform other high-intensity exercises, it’s best to avoid hard surfaces and avoid doing them daily.

Learn more about exercise and how it helps with arthritis and other conditions at

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