The holidays are just around the corner! First, there’s Halloween and all the candy that comes with it. Next is Thanksgiving—a holiday revolving around rich, buttery cooking and afternoon naps. Then, of course, there is Christmas and all the party invites, the cookies, the fruitcake, and the feasts. Then, as the ball drops on New Year's Eve, we start thinking of resolutions to lose weight and get in shape. What if we consider how weight affects our joints and make those resolutions now?
Osteoarthritis, the leading cause of joint pain, is directly linked to obesity. The more weight our body carries, the more force and stress our joints endure. The continued pressure caused by extra body weight wears on the joints and the protective cartilage at the end of your bones.1 Fat cells also produce chemicals in the body that promote joint inflammation, exacerbating the pain caused by strained joints.2 The more weight our body carries, the more force and stress our joints endure, which can cause irreparable damage on our knees and hips.
Our knees bear 80% of our body weight when we stand still and 150% or more when merely walking across the room.2 That means, with every step, a 200-pound person exerts 300 pounds of pressure on the knees. The pressure is even more significant when climbing stairs, walking up an incline, or squatting down.
Our hips endure a force of 2.5 times our body weight when walking, 6 times our body weight when jogging, and 8 times our body weight when running.
This doesn’t mean you should skip out on the holidays to watch your weight and protect your joints. An exercise routine and maintaining a healthy diet outside of the holidays can help ward off the regret and extra pounds that often accompany us into the new year.
When we think of weight loss, many of us feel overwhelmed by the big lifestyle changes we think we’ll have to make in order to see results. Though change is necessary, small steps can be made that will render not only visible results but lasting relief to the joints that keep us on the move and ready for all our holiday activities.
Dr. Amir Jamali, founder of the Joint Preservation Institute, is a board-certified fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon in Northern California specializing in treatments for the knee, hip and shoulder.