Obesity is certainly an issue over these last couple of decades. And it makes sense. The number of obese adults is still rising and while the younger generations are finally dropping that data trend with increased food and fitness education, there are still plenty of adults that suffer the effects of obesity. A lot of the effects that are the subject of conversation in the public sphere are emotional and psychological. While that is certainly something worth discussion, we still have yet to talk about the pure physical effects of obesity. The kind of effects that impact your day to day life.
The excess weight in our bodies changes our very physique, making various functions harder to perform. Specifically, it causes excessive strain and pressure on your bones and joints. So, how do your joints work, and why are they effected by excess weight?
How our Joints Work
Joints are the cushion and movable points between two bones. According to Informedhealth.org, “The joint surfaces (articular surfaces) of the bones are covered with a layer of cartilage. This layer is between 0.2 and 0.5 mm thick, and up to 6 mm thick on the kneecap. It provides a smooth surface to stop the bones in the joint from rubbing against each other too much. The cartilage passes the pressure in the joint on to the bone underneath it. This is especially important in joints that bear heavier loads, such as hip or knee joints. “
If you want to get very detailed by the anatomy of a joint, the ligaments and muscle surround the outside of the bone. In between the two bones is a combination of cartilage and synovial fluid. Cartilage provides cushioning between the two bones. The synovial fluid provides lubrication in the joint.
With that knowledge of anatomy in mind, try to reflect on what would happen if a ligament snapped, or there was no longer lubrication of cartilage on a joint. How easy would it be to move around?
The same principle applies when it comes to weight-bearing loads on our joints.
Pressure and Joints
Our joints are made to withstand pressure. That is part of our biology. This is because joints are made to withstand compression for the sake of action. However, if there is excess weight, it might be more of a struggle for the body to handle.
According to Harvard, “When you walk across level ground, the force on your knees is the equivalent of 1½ times your body weight. That means a 200-pound man will put 300 pounds of pressure on his knees with each step. Add an incline, and the pressure is even greater: the force on each knee is two to three times your body weight when you go up and downstairs, and four to five times your body weight when you squat to tie a shoelace or pick up an item you dropped.”
So if you add more to your body weight, either through obesity or just carrying dumbells, that pressure would increase.
If you combine all the pressure for excess weight with the fact that fat cells can create chemicals that specifically cause inflammation, you can see why obesity makes doing regular activities harder on joints and the muscles attached to them.
Altogether you start to see how obesity can increase the likelihood of joint damage.
Weight Loss and Joint Relief
Luckily, the loss of excess weight can also decrease excess pressure on joints. In fact, during studies on the subject as far back as 2005, there was evidence pointing to every pound lost causes a drastic improvement when it came to joint pain and arthritis.
According to Web M.D. “The accumulated reduction in knee load for a 1-pound loss in weight would be more than 4,800 pounds per mile walked,” writes researcher Stephen P. Messier, Ph.D., of Wake Forest University in the July issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism. “For people losing 10 pounds, each knee would be subjected to 48,000 pounds less in compressive load per mile walked.”
So, if you are still on the fence about getting that weight loss surgery or going to the gym, think about just how much relief that sort of weight loss can do for your joints. You don’t even need to suffer from arthritis to notice the change in joint pressure after you lose the weight. If that isn’t a sign of motivation, nothing is.