Saturday, October 19, 2013

Beating Knee Pain: Exercise More and Eat Less

How should you try to reduce your knee pain?

Lose weight?

Or exercise more?

It turns out, not surprisingly, that the correct answer is both combined.

Researchers at Wake Forest University conducted a study that showed diet and exercise together proved “superior in virtually every outcome,” according to Stephen Messier, the lead investigator.

The 454 subjects, who were over 55 and either overweight or obese with mild or moderate arthritis of the knee, were instructed to either lose weight, exercise, or both, over an 18-month period.

Some of the findings:

* The diet group subjects (who lost an average of 20 lbs.) saw bigger reductions in “knee compressive force” than the exercise-only group (where weight loss averaged only 4 lbs.).

* Both the diet and diet and exercise groups had greater reductions in the inflammatory marker Interleukin 6 than the exercise-only group.

* The diet and exercise subjects had less knee pain, better function and better quality of life than those who only exercised.

Okay, here’s my take on all this.

Yes, it does somewhat seem like “No kidding, Sherlock” stuff, if that’s what you’re thinking. If doing one thing is good for you, and doing another thing is also good for you, why wouldn’t doing both be best for you?

True, but what I find interesting is (and I can’t be sure of this; this observation comes simply from reading some bullet points on the study’s results), losing weight may be even more important than exercise for beating knee pain (note: if you’re overweight, of course). For one, inflammation was tamed best by those subjects in the study who were either dieting and exercising or just dieting.

“Losing weight” is such a critical message to communicate to knee pain sufferers that, even though I’ve promised you all I’ll try to avoid repeating myself on this blog, on this point I’ve happily repeated myself: just go here and here and here to read more.

Also, the strategy of losing weight has a simplicity that exercising doesn’t. With exercise, there are a lot of questions that lack clear answers: What kind of exercise? How much? What if your knee hurts as you’re exercising? What if it doesn’t hurt during, but afterward? Etc.

Losing weight is comparatively simple. You’re 160 pounds. You should be 140. So lose 20 pounds.

“Simple” in this context refers to an absence of ambiguity about what needs to be done. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean to imply losing weight is easy. It can be very, very difficult.

But the question is: How motivated are you? I can assure you, I was extremely motivated.

Here’s a photo of what I looked like around the time of my knee pain battle. Not a lot of fat on this frame.

But I still managed to lose about three pounds, believing that every little thing mattered if I was going to overcome my knee problems. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

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