Reduce joint and back pain with diet and exercise

Carrying excess weight can come with many problems, including joint pain from added compression and stress at your knees, ankles, hips, and back. 

Having a BMI that’s classified as obese means, you are 4-5 times as likely to be diagnosed with osteoarthritis (OA), a condition in which the cartilage within the joint degenerates and the bones rub against one another. This causes irritation, pain and swelling. Obesity is recognised as a modifiable risk factor for developing this condition, as the more weight going through a joint, the more wear and tear there is inside it. 

Excess fat tissue can also cause systemic inflammation, making joint pain worse and creating an avoidance of things that might temporarily worsen the pain- such as exercise. In turn, physical activity might be missed, leading to more inflammation, more weight gain, and a never-ending cycle being triggered.

What you can do to ease joint pain from excess weight:

Lighten up. Dropping just a few kilos can make a big difference. The research shows that losing just 10 pounds (4.5kg) can decrease the progression of knee osteoarthritis by 50%!

Get moving. Exercise help to improve joint motion and enhance strength. Some forms of exercise may be painful, such as jogging or walking, as the lower joints are still supporting the majority of your weight but you still have options. 

Instead of exercising that causes you too much pain, opt for water exercises such as swimming laps or non-weight bearing cardio such as the exercise bike or cross-trainer. Exercise is important to maintain as it’s essential for good health for many reasons, not just for weight loss. 

Dietary changes. There may be multiple improvements that you can incorporate to help you shift the kgs and reduce overall inflammation. 

To lose excess weight, you need to reduce your calorie intake to a level that requires your body to burn through stored fat instead. 

Try swapping high-calorie foods for lower-calorie alternatives. It helps to focus on home cooking, avoiding takeaway and fast food, reducing oil and butter use, switching to low-fat dairy, and eating more lean meats such as white fish rather than marbled meat cuts. Other helpful pointers are to try to fill your plate half full with vegetables at lunch and dinner and snack on fruit instead of processed foods.

Reducing inflammation is a possible outcome of dietary changes, and changing your diet can help to reduce your joint pain and improve your overall health. 

The best tips for an anti-inflammatory diet are: 

• Avoid foods high in sugar, sodium, refined carbohydrates, saturated fat and trans-fats. 

• Incorporate plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and legumes, for the beneficial effects of the high fibre content. 

• Cook with extra-virgin olive oil, and add flavour using herbs and spices rather than excessive salt.

• Increase your intake of good fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids. These are found in oily fish especially, as the best food source of omega-3 (salmon, mackerel, trout, herring and sardines), and there is also omega-3 present in nuts (walnuts, macadamias, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans) and seeds (flax seeds, chia seeds).

• Ensure to eat enough protein in order for your body to maintain strong muscles and heal. Incorporate seafood, lean meat, low-fat dairy and protein products throughout the day. 

If you’re unsure where to start with your weight loss, try checking out the Tony Ferguson shake range here to replace a meal each day with a high protein shake full of nutrients and fibre. We also have a range of recipes here and many other resources to help you on your journey. 

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