More and more doctors are recommending physical activity to help osteoarthritis (OA) patients. Until recently, traditional medical advice was to take it easy. Once thought of as a problem of old age, OA is showing up in middle age and young adults, as a result of obesity and sports injuries. Weight loss, combined with exercises aimed at improving joint function and increasing muscle strength can significantly improve patient’s health and quality of life, compared with medication alone.

According to Kate Lorig, director of the Patient Education Research Center at Stanford University, “The most dangerous exercise you can do when you have arthritis is none,” and I wholeheartedly agree. Sitting around taking it easy and medicating causes one to lose muscle, gain weight, and many suffer stomach distress from the pain meds. Each pound of extra weight adds four pounds to the knee-joint, so even a small loss of weight can have a positive effect-this occurs more often in those who are taking a more proactive approach. For knee OA, I prescribe exercises to strengthen the muscles of ¬†ankle, quad, and the hip, as well as flexibility work. Initially, the exercise may be painful, but with time, the benefits accumulate as reduced pain and greater mobility occur. I also have patients heat the area before we begin, and ice following treatment.

I spoke recently on the benefits of strawberries for certain types of cancers. A new study shows it may help if you stuff yourself at the dinner table. Strawberries slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, a nasty type of cholesterol that likes to chew up arterial wall lining,making perfect sites for arterial plaque to adhere and that’s a bad thing. Berries, tea, and dark chocolate contain polyphenols, which help prevent this from occurring. ¬†Food is medicine.

I gain 5-10 pounds every winter, and usually take it off by now, but this year the weight is being stubborn. So I’ve set a goal: lose 10 pounds of body fat in 60 days. I’ve put myself on Blilie Boot Camp. I started on 4/8/11, and I have already lost 1.5 pounds. I exercise 5 x/wk, no alcohol whatsoever, and stick to my diet. I will post my workouts and diet after the first month, and keep you apprised of my progress.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.