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Big Benefits to Working Out

Posted on April 25, 2019

How often have you heard about the benefits of exercise? Weight loss, improved overall health, a great way to reduce stress – the benefits are numerous. But, has anyone ever told you that exercise helps your joints?

That might sound strange, as for years, some researchers have warned the public that exercising can mean wear and tear on your joints and cartilage.

But, researchers from Queen Mary University of London have found that exercise can actually help your joints by preventing the breakdown of cartilage that causes the painful joint condition known as osteoarthritis.

Pain of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage in the joints breaks down. When cartilage breaks down, it causes the bones in the joint to rub against each other.

“And that means pain,” said Dr. Joel Singer, a New York personal cell physician.

According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 31 million Americans are living with osteoarthritis.

There are many other forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, a condition caused when the immune system attacks the joints of the body.

A Change in Lifestyle

Symptoms of osteoarthritis include stiffness, swelling and changes in range of motion and mobility.

“As osteoarthritis develops, many individuals see big changes in how they live,” Singer said.

Decreased mobility and pain with movement can cause a reduced quality of life in many cases.

For active individuals, osteoarthritis means sitting down and missing out in some cases.

“Things can get difficult – even getting up from sitting or lying down, moving up and down stairs, and exercising all hurt,” Singer said.

How Exercise Helps

During the study, the British researchers showed that the mechanical force exerted on cartilage cells in the joints during exercise can help prevent that cartilage from breaking down.

Wait. Working out doesn’t cause damage to the joints? 

According to the Queen Mary study, no. The researchers say exercise stops the body’s inflammatory response from activating, which means the risk to cartilage is minimized.

“Inflammation, the body’s natural response to stress, injury and illness, can cause damage to cartilage tissue and can bring on osteoarthritis,” Singer said.

The study, published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, shows how exercising stops inflammation by affecting tiny hair-like structures called primary cilia found in cartilage cells.

The cilia play a role in the joints by detecting changes caused by mechanical force on the joints. Next, they send that information to the cells and signal them to turn on a protein known as HDAC6.

HDAC6 has powerful anti-inflammatory effects, which means the risk to joints during exercise is reduced.

Additionally, the researchers found that the primary cilia changed in length to reflect the presence of inflammation.

The scientists hope that their research will help show the benefits of working out that go beyond keeping the body and joints healthy. They hope to prove the benefits of exercises for decreasing inflammation in other body areas, too.

“Reducing inflammation in the body is important for overall health,” Singer said.

While inflammation is a normal and healthy part of the body’s immune system response, too much of anything can be a bad thing.

“Inflammation is necessary to heal wounds and fight off illness, but inflammation over sustained periods can trigger illness, too,” Singer said.

Chronic inflammation has been connected to illnesses such as cancer, heart conditions and autoimmune disease.

Sources: Queen Mary University of London. “Exercise helps prevent cartilage damage caused by arthritis.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 March 2019.

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