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Flexibility lowers arthritis risk in women

According to a recent research study, older women who have super-flexible joints are less likely to have arthritic knees than their peers. The findings of the study suggest that the flexibility retained in old age can ward off arthritis. Both natural and exercise induced flexibility seems to help prevent arthritis. So exercise and stretching should be encouraged.

Flexibility lowers arthritis risk in women

According to recent research, older women who have super flexible joints are less likely to have arthritic knees than their peers. The findings of the study suggest that the flexibility retained in old age can ward off arthritis. Both natural and exercise- induced flexibility seems to help prevent arthritis so exercise and stretching should be encouraged.Persons with super flexible or hypermobile joints, as it is known medically, have an expanded range of motion. They can often pull their thumbs down to touch their wrists and have elbows that hyper-extend when they stretch out their arms. And the knees of flexible people may bow backwards when they stand up straight. It is the looseness of the structures surrounding the joint that allow it to have more motion, similar to a hinge on a door that allows it to swing open and close.Researchers from the Department of Rheumatology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, UK, studied 716 women out of which 79 had some degree of joint hypermobility. Most of these women showed increased flexibility in the spinal region and hip joints, allowing them to easily bend at the waist and place their hands flat on the floor. The women were in the age group of 53 to 72 years.
The researchers found that bone mineral density was three percent higher in the hips of the hypermobile group compared with other women. There was no difference in spine bone mineral density between the two groups of women. The researchers also looked for osteoarthritis in the hands, knees, spine and hips of hypermobile women. Compared to their normal-jointed counterparts, hypermobile women showed a reduced risk for arthritis in the knees only. According to the researchers, women who were taller and more hypermobile in the study were also more physically active throughout their lifetime. This may explain the differences in bone mineral density and arthritis between the hypermobile women and those with less flexible joints.The researchers recommend that all postmenopausal women should concentrate on flexibility, exercise regularly and keep their body mass index below 25. All these can help prevent osteoarthritis. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Geriatrics Society recommend that adults should engage in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, they say exercise strengthens bones and reduces joint and muscle pain.

The Journal of Rheumatology, April 2003; Vol. 30
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