Get to the point with joints: fight arthritis with weight loss

Nov 13, 2021
Maintaining weight may be a helpful solution to ease arthritic pain. Source: Getty

Weighing in at 101kgs, Janice, 53, said her foot literally “cracked under the pressure” – with a fracture that refused to heal, despite a sedentary lifestyle. 

“My hips and knee joints were always sore, and it was harder and harder to just stand up after sitting for a while,” she said.

She’s not alone. Janice is one of the thousands of Australians who suffer from joint pain or arthritis, an umbrella term for a medical condition that affects the joints between your bones.  A whopping one in seven Australians shares her plight.

Before she transformed her body – and life – by shedding more than 19 kilograms with the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet program,  Janice was also among the two in three (67 per cent) Australians aged 18 and over who are overweight or obese – a major risk factor for osteoarthritis (the most prevalent type of arthritis in Australia), according to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

The health threat is only increasing too – no thanks to that expanding national waistline and an ageing population. And with data showing that knee and hip replacements performed for OA in Australia are predicted to jump by 276 per cent by 2030 – it’s an issue we can’t afford to ignore.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. While contributing factors such as genetics, age, and sex can’t necessarily be controlled, there are things that you can focus on now, to reduce the impact of this debilitating condition in the future.

Weight management and physical activity are two ways to manage and reduce the severity of OA symptoms. Research suggests that a weight loss of five per cent of your body mass can offer significant health benefits, by reducing the pressure on your joints, easing joint pain, and increasing mobility. 

Every kilogram lost can take an extra load of four kilograms off your joints. For Janice, losing weight was a game-changer. 

“It’s the equivalent of eight 2kg bags of potatoes – so you can only imagine the freedom that’s given me! The aches and pains in the morning have gone. I roll out of bed with ease and don’t feel tired all of the time. I enjoy life knowing I don’t have pain holding me back anymore,” she says. 

Janice before and after
Janice before and after completing the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet program. Source: Supplied.

Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. Check out these top tips to managing, preventing, and improving joint pain below:

Nutrition

  • Look for foods with anti-inflammatory properties: seek out foods rich in Omega-3, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, or healthy fats like avocado, nuts, and olive oil;
  • Restore the good cells in your body by increasing your antioxidant intake: brightly coloured fruits and veggies are your friends here – think tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, and blueberries; 
  • Improve your bone density with calcium: the best sources are dairy products (milk, yoghurt, cheese), but tinned fish with tiny edible bones (sardines), calcium-fortified soy products (tofu, tempeh, fortified soy milk), and calcium-fortified cereals and bread can be great too. Legumes, dark leafy green vegetables, almonds, and sesame seeds also contain some calcium; 
  • Avoid the “inflammatory” foods: refined carbohydrates and sugars, alcohol, and overly-processed food.

Exercise

Consult an exercise physiotherapist or similar and find a healthy program that works to increase flexibility and mobility, muscle strength, and aerobic strength. Two to three times a week, for a minimum of 20 minutes, is the way to go. Pilates, yoga, aqua aerobics, and tai chi can be worthwhile routines that can be easily scaled up and down depending on your body’s needs.

Mind

Pain can be incredibly debilitating and take a toll on your mood and wellbeing – which is why psychology can play a huge part in helping you make healthy decisions. Try taking the time each day to put these Positive Psychology tools into practice and see how it shifts your mindset and motivation:

  • Kindness – performing acts of kindness is proven to improve wellbeing;
  • Gratitude – reflecting on things you are thankful for can increase happiness;
  • Best possible self – forecasting the type of life you wish to have in the future can boost optimism and motivation.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Do you suffer from arthritis? What helps you deal with the pain?

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