I Feel Your Pain, Really
On the subway, I overheard a heavyset woman tell another passenger, “My back has been killing me, but there's no sense going to my doctor. All he will tell me to do is to lose weight.” My heart went out to her. It is such a vicious cycle. Excess weight puts pressure on our joints. Back, knee, and hip pain often follow. That pain sidelines us. The inactivity further weakens muscles. We burn fewer calories.
Some health care providers get it; others don't. Obesity is caused by a complex interaction of genetic, microbial, neuroendocrine, environmental, social, economic, psychological, and cultural factors most of which are not under our control. All of us deserve compassionate and state-of-the-art care for our pain, and you should get rid of any provider who brushes you off. There are many people of normal weight who have joint pain. But health care professionals would be remiss if they didn't point out the relationship between pain and excess weight.
Safely building movement into our lives and losing as little as ten pounds can help ameliorate pain. Plus, we will see ourselves as people actively working to lessen our pain. One good way to start is to increase your N.E.A.T. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (the movement that isn't planned exercise). For example, if you're watching TV, walk around during commercials, do a quick chore, swing your arms, or do a little dance. That adds up to about 15 minutes per hour of movement every hour. Stand when you talk on the phone. At work, you can stand up and walk to visit co-workers or circle the halls twice when heading to the rest room.
Water aerobics are generally recommended for people with joint problems. Many overweight people feel conspicuous in a swim suit, find the classes given at inconvenient times, or don't live in an area where classes are offered. I participate in an arthritis water aerobics class, and everyone at every health level is welcome. In addition to the movement that class provides, there is a great sense of camaraderie that develops, and it is always great to be with people who understand. Attendance requires adjusting my schedule in an inconvenient way, but it has paid great dividends in how I feel, and I bet it would for you too.
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