How maintaining a healthy weight can protect your joints

Being overweight or obese puts extra pressure on your knees and joints and can cause joint pain. Maintaining a healthy weight is therefore very important for joint health and lowering your risk of other complications such as osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, it causes the cartilage at the ends of your bones to break down. This affects your joint health and causes pain, swelling and restricts the movement of your joints. 

Obesity is now recognised as a key risk factor for osteoarthritis — importantly, a risk factor that can be changed. Every kilogram of excess weight you carry adds around four kilograms of extra stress on your knee joints. What’s more, a day-to-day task such as climbing the stairs puts seven times more pressure on your knees than your bodyweight alone. This shows just how much of an impact that extra kilogram of weight can have on your joint health.  

Weight loss is often easier said than done, especially if you’re experiencing knee pain. You may be experiencing pain when cycling, pain when bending or pain when running. If this is the case for you, these lifestyle changes can help keep you motivated while trying to keep your weight down:

Try gentle exercise

Gentle exercise not only helps with weight loss but also affects your mental wellbeing. Stress can be a major challenge along your weight loss journey and is also believed to contribute to inflammation, which can worsen your knee pain. 

Start with a daily walk of at least 20 minutes and gradually increase the length of your walk. Another low impact exercise to consider is swimming. Working out in the water is a great option if you suffer from joint pain as it puts less stress on your joints and muscles than other workouts. You can try aqua aerobics classes if you want to add a social element to your exercise routine. 

Other low impact exercises such as cycling and yoga are great, not only for burning calories but also strengthening your muscles and improving joint health. If you struggle to stay motivated with exercise, find local groups and classes — they provide an ideal opportunity to join a community that will offer support and motivation to help you stay on track. 

Also, make sure you increase your water intake as you exercise, to stay hydrated.

Maintain a healthy diet

Rather than going on crash diets, establishing a healthy diet as part of your lifestyle is key to sustainable weight loss and management. 

Simple measures such as reducing your portion size and including more vegetables in your diet can help you lose weight. Drinking water can also help. This is because sometimes your brain can misinterpret thirst as a sign that you're hungry — drinking water can therefore resolve your thirst and ease what your brain mistakenly perceived as a food craving. 

Pay attention to what you eat; avoid foods that are high in fat and added sugar and cut out processed meals such as takeaways, crisps, biscuits and ready meals. Avoid sugary drinks, this includes fruit juice — the natural fibre found in fruit is removed in fruit juice, leaving behind a high-sugar drink. 

Choose recipes that use fresh ingredients and are naturally high in fibre and protein. Fresh fruit and vegetables are not only low in calories, but they are also high in fibre, so you’ll feel fuller for longer. 

Plan how you'll maintain a healthy weight

If you plan on reducing your body weight, make sure you don’t take on too much too soon in your weight loss journey so you don’t feel overwhelmed or put yourself off exercising. Aim to develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise as this will help them become a part of your routine in the long term.

Sticking to an exercise routine can help with motivation. Try setting a new goal for each week eg increasing your exercise time by five minutes. Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable.

Plan your week ahead on a Sunday; write out your meal plans and schedule your exercise. This adds structure to your week, which makes it more likely that you’ll stick to your plan. 

When planning your meals, remember to plan your snacks too. A healthy snack for the mid-morning and afternoon can help keep your energy levels up and maintain focus — if you’ve planned your snacks in advance, you’re less likely to pick unhealthy options. 

Make sure to plan some downtime as well. Your mental health and physical health are linked, and reducing your stress levels will help you stay focused.

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Author Information

Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.