Joint pain? Exercise!

PHOTO: Joint pain? Exercise!

SINGAPORE - The most common reason the elderly with knee arthritis give for not exercising is the pain they feel in their joints.

But that should not be a barrier to exercising, said Dr Ivy Lim, a sports physician at Changi General Hospital (CGH).

This is something the hospital hopes to address in an active ageing forum on Saturday.

To be held at CGH training centre's auditorium from 9am, doctors will be speaking on the importance of the elderly staying active.

It costs S$5, which is to be paid on the day itself. Those interested have up to tomorrow to register by calling CGH at 6850-2737, or via e-mail at

While there are no national figures on arthritis here, a 2007 survey by the Health Ministry showed that 1 in 10 Singapore residents aged 18 to 69 have arthritis and chronic joint symptoms.

There is a common myth that if you have it, you shouldn't exercise, Dr Lim said.

"We definitely have misconceptions about the elderly staying away from exercising. Even well-meaning relatives will tell them not to move around too much because of their age."

She said it is common to find wear and tear in the joints of those in their 70s.

She added: "The reason they experience pain is because their muscles are not working. Their muscles are going to get weaker if they don't move. That worsens the problem."

While exercise will not take a patient off medication completely in most cases, it will help in alleviating symptoms, she pointed out.

For those with high blood pressure, for instance, studies have shown that blood pressure comes down immediately after aerobic exercise and stays down for about 22 hours.

Following the Health Promotion Board's guidelines, seniors should ideally clock in 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, a week.

Patients should be able to carry a conversation while walking, but feel short of breath when they try to sing. Those who are obese should do twice the amount of brisk walking.

Dr Lim advised seniors with diabetes to consult a doctor before embarking on an exercising plan as they may need to adjust their dosage or timing when taking medicine as it acts to lower blood sugar.

To engage all muscle groups, Dr Lim recommends a combination of stretching, strengthening and balancing exercises on top of aerobic activity.

She encouraged seniors not to be bogged down by the guidelines but instead see them as a goal.

She said: "Even if you don't end up meeting the national guidelines, you should be getting off your butt to start some activity."

This article was first published on July 30, 2014.
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