My friend Marta, 49, has a lot of pain in her legs and whenever we go out she avoids walking and climbing stairs. She has had several tests to see what is causing her pain and has been told that it is osteoarthritis, a super-common disorder, due to the wear and tear on her joints. Treatment? Neither infiltrations with cortisone derivatives, nor painkillers, nor anti-inflammatory drugs, nor chondroprotectors (such as glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate) have worked in your case. Although she doesn’t want to admit it, she knows that the 12 kilos she put on herself when quitting smoking (and calming her anxiety with food!) have greatly influenced her pain and loss of mobility, because before that she was an overactive woman.
Today I talked to her about the relationship between excess kilos and joint pain and, after consulting again what the studies say about it, I read her these conclusions:
- Extra pounds put additional stress on weight-bearing joints (such as the knee).
- The inflammation produced by excess body fat (especially that which accumulates in the belly area) adds more reasons to the deterioration, which extends to the rest of the joints. In particular, this is what excess weight in the knees does.
If you walk on smooth ground, the force exerted on your knees is equivalent to 1.5 times your body weight. For example, if you weigh about 75 kilos, it will be about 110 kilos of pressure on your knees for every step you take. The ups and downs increase that pressure. For example, going up or downstairs will put two to three times more force on each knee. If you try to tie your shoelaces or pick something up off the floor, it will be 3 to 4 times your body weight.
Losing just 4 or 5 kilos is a relief for the knees and can even prevent their future deterioration. This has been proven by a study that indicates that young and obese people who lose between 4 and 6 kilos of weight and maintain that loss clearly reduce that risk in later years.
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My friend Martha’s question (and that of many people in her situation) is: what effective tactics can help me lose weight and reduce my joint pain? This is what the experts are proposing:
- Move more, especially outdoors, the health benefits (both physical and mental) will be enormous.
- Since exercise alone won’t help you lose much weight (to lose half a kilo per week, you need to burn about 500 extra calories a day), you’ll want to combine physical activity with some change in your diet.
One idea is to burn about 125 calories a day through exercise and eliminate another 125 calories from the daily diet (for example, by exchanging a doughnut for a wholemeal toast with 20g of cream cheese or conventional ice cream for Greek yogurt).
And don’t forget that if you lose just 1 kilo a month you will weigh 12 kilos less after 1 year, which will mean much less pressure on your joints and a great improvement for your arteries and your figure!