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How light exercise can help prevent arthritis from getting worse

As we've previously written on Scope, a growing body of evidence shows exercise can ease the pain, stiffness and swelling of the joints associated with arthritis. Yet despite these findings, as well as federal health guidelines advising them to exercise moderately every day, many Americans with arthritis continue to shun exercise.

Today, a post on Shots takes a closer look on why those with arthritis really should get moving. The entry describes how physical activity may help prevent arthritis from getting worse and offers more details on how exercising can alleviate painful symptoms:

Arthritis slowly breaks down the body's natural shock absorbers, the cartilage, that jelly-like substance between our bones and in our joints. When that happens, blood doesn't circulate as freely and doesn't deliver adequate nutrition to the cartilage. All the cartilage nutrition, says [UCLA Medical Center rheumatologist Roy Altman, MD,] comes through the joint. Massaging the joint through exercise helps get the blood supply going which, in turn, helps cartilage take in nutrition.

Another big plus for exercising through arthritis pain: Muscles surround the joint, and when muscles are bigger and stronger, the joint is more protected.

By exercising, "you actually reduce the stressors on the joint itself," Altman says. "The muscles take up the weight and take up the pressures, instead of the joint taking up the weight and the pressures."

Exercise doesn't reverse damage that's already done. But it helps prevent arthritis from getting worse, and it has the added benefit of keeping excess pounds off. That can make a huge difference on the joints that support most of the body's weight: the hips and knees.

Previously: Exercise may alleviate symptoms of arthritis regardless of weight loss and Treating joint pain with physical activity, self-management programs
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