Free time is such a valuable commodity in our busy lives. We all have those downtime activities we look forward to watching TV, spending time with our families, reading books, doing puzzles. Multiple studies have proven that de-stressing activities are vital for our health, as they help to reduce the effects of stress in our bodies.
However, there is something to be said for being more active during your free time. If you spend a lot of time sitting in a chair (a full work day, for example), you need to counteract that sitting by moving around more. An hour of weightlifting or jogging won’t be enough to balance out the scales and cause serious weight loss. You need to be more active throughout the day: walking, hiking, jogging, running, cleaning your house, and doing anything that doesn’t involve sitting down.
According to a new study out of Finland, that activity can actually be very good for your joints. A team of Finnish examined post-menopausal women in their 60s, analyzing both their leisure-time physical activity and their knee joints over the course of one year. The women were divided into three categories: lowest, middle, and highest amounts of leisure-time physical activity. MRIs were done of the cartilage in the knee joints to determine osteoarthritis-related changes.
As expected, the women with the highest amount of leisure-time physical activity had healthier knee joints. There was better fluid flow to the cartilage in their knee joints, as well as better diffusion of nutrients. Higher activity levels also increased glycosaminoglycan (GAG) in the knee joint cartilage. GAG helps to lubricate the surfaces of the joints, encouraging viscoelasticity. A loss of GAG is an early sign of osteoarthritis, but walking helped to prevent GAG loss and keep the joints healthy.
The women that participated in this study all engaged in either regular walking or Nordic walking (walking using poles). Either alone or combined, both types of walking can lead to serious improvements in knee health.
Are you wasting your time working out at the gym? Absolutely not. Every moment spent engaged in resistance training, HIIT, or cardiovascular training can help to improve your health in many ways. But is that gym time enough to keep your body (including your joints) healthy after so many hours spent sitting down? The answer according to this study is no.
It’s time to include more mild exercise in your free time. The more you move around, the healthier your joints. If you want to decrease your risk of osteoarthritis as you grow older, it’s essential that you include more leisure-time physical activity to your daily routine.
1. Matti Munukka, Benjamin Waller, Arja Häkkinen, Miika T. Nieminen, Eveliina Lammentausta, Urho M. Kujala, Juha Paloneva, Hannu Kautiainen, Ilkka Kiviranta, Ari Heinonen. “Physical Activity Is Related with Cartilage Quality in Women with Knee Osteoarthritis.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001238.