Exercise Prevents Adult Arthritis
best time to prevent arthritis may be decades before it strikes
-- with regular exercise in childhood to build joint cartilage
during the "wonder years."
in the newest issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine
say that vigorous child exercise can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis
later in life by building up cartilage. Loss of cartilage --
the firm, rubbery cushion between bones -- is believed to be
a principal cause of osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative
reviewing previous research, Australian researchers report that
child exercise has been shown to increase knee cartilage between
7% and 15% in boys and between 4% and 10% in girls compared
with less active kids. Building cartilage through child exercise
may carry over into adulthood, making knees and other joints
less vulnerable to osteoarthritis.
study showed some of the most striking findings linking lack
of child exercise and arthritis -- children who had not been
active in the previous two weeks had up to 25% less cartilage
than mildly active kids.
current evidence supports a prescription of vigorous physical
activity for optimum joint development in children," write Flavia
Cicuttini of Monash University in Melbourne, and her colleagues.
catch-22: Those who stand to benefit most from cartilage-building
child exercise are also most likely to suffer injuries from
it -- including those that damage joints, making them more vulnerable
to future arthritis. That's because in order to build bone,
muscle, and cartilage to prevent later osteoarthritis, children
fare best with weight-bearing activities.
it's these weight-bearing activities that increase the risk
of sports-related injury in children," says Julie Gilchrist,
MD, medical epidemiologist at the National Center for Injury
Prevention & Control.
and her colleagues at the CDC report in the June issue of Injury
Prevention that children between ages 5 and 14 have the
highest rate of sports-related injuries of all age groups --
including those to knees, ankles, wrists, and other joints that
could boost the later risk of osteoarthritis. Their rate of
injury -- about 60 injuries per 1,000 children -- is more than
four times higher than young adults. Basketball topped all sports
in causing injuries, she says.
always want to get kids to be more active, because if they aren't
active as children, their likelihood of being active as adults
is significantly less," Gilchrist stated in an interview. "But
parents need to take measures to ensure they don't have long-term
sure children are properly conditioned before starting a new
activity. "If you sign your child up for a soccer team
and they haven't been exercising on a regular basis, walk
with them each night for a few months before practice begins."
the right skill level. Whether in pickup games or organized
leagues, make sure your children are playing with others who
are comparable to their abilities. "Over-playing" boost risks
gear to ensure it fits properly and is in good shape.
This includes bicycles as well as protective pads, helmets,
and athletic equipment.
to officials. In youth leagues, speak to coaches and referees
to ensure they are "mindful of injury prevention," says Gilchrist.
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