Has our love of fitness and exercise put us at risk of needing a joint replacement later in life?  

exercise and joint replacement

We are a nation of exercise-lovers, with many of us undertaking regular workouts at the gym or with exercise classes/groups to keep ourselves feeling and looking healthy. There are many benefits of keeping fit and participating in regular exercise, including reducing the likelihood of suffering from some of the most serious health complaints, such as a stroke, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Regardless of these benefits, the results of a research project which has been undertaken over the last 10 years, warn of a hidden danger of exercising too much, and putting stresses and strains on other parts of our body. The research suggests that in reducing the risk of certain conditions, we are in fact trading these against an increased chance of developing others.

Compensating for one by trading against another

With increased levels of exercise comes a risk of increasing the wear and tear on our joints. This isn’t just a problem for those who participate in high impact sports (however their risk is greatest) but it also affects those who do a variety of other sports such as running, basketball, racket sports and athletics.

Joint replacements are on the increase and the recently published research attributes this partly to the exercises we choose to undertake. Hip replacement operations, for example, are becoming more and more prevalent in the UK, with the Express reporting that over 70,000 people undergo hip replacement operations every year.  Many of those who undergo hip replacement operations do so because over time, the hip socket becomes worn and begins to seize up, however there is an increasing trend towards younger people requiring joint replacement operations due to their lifestyle choices.

Orthopaedic surgeons such as Simon Bridle believe that it is all about getting the balance right. For those who are in the early stages of developing joint problems such as osteoarthritis, gentle, low impact exercising can help keep the joint supple, and can avoid the dangers of gaining weight through a decrease in activity levels. There is a direct correlation though with those undertaking high impact sports and the development of osteoarthritis at a younger age. It’s all about understanding your body’s limitations and exercising within sensible parameters. 

Take necessary care when starting or finishing an exercise regime

Cast your mind back to school when your PE teacher will have asked your class to do stretches before and after your PE lesson. For impatient children waiting to get to the fun part, this may have seemed like a waste of time, however, this was teaching good habits that will hopefully have remained with you through your adult life – the importance of properly warming up and cooling down before and after a period of exercise.

Failing to warm up and cool down properly will have short-term and long-term effects on your joints. In the short term, you’ll probably ache much more and feel like you’ve really pushed your body, when in reality you’ve just given your joints and your muscles a bit of a shock that they’ll need time to recover from. It’s the equivalent of waking someone up with a bucket of cold water compared with coaxing them out of bed with a cup of tea. If you warm up and cool down sensibly and properly, you’ll find your ability to undertake exercise should continue for longer that if you push your joints and muscles too rigorously and without the correct preparation.