10 minutes a day is all it takes to keep osteoarthritis from stealing your independence

Most people think a cancer diagnosis is about the worst thing that could happen to them.

And, as a health researcher, I’m no exception.

That’s why I spend a lot of time looking for ways to diminish chronic disease risk.

However, many of us forget that there are other health issues that may not seem as scary — but can disrupt and derail your life just as much… maybe even more.

For example, did you know that 35.2 percent of Americans over the age of 65 are disabled? That’s more than a third of that generation.

That means that as you approach that age and beyond, you have practically the same risk of becoming disabled as you have of being diagnosed with cancer at any point in your lifetime (35.2 percent compared to 37 to 39 percent).

Not much difference, right?

Yet, we spend very little time on disability prevention — possibly because we just don’t know what works.

Well, we can no longer use that as an excuse thanks to the hard work of researchers at Northwestern University who found a way that you can reduce your risk of disability by up to 85 percent. And, it only takes an hour a week…

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Preventing disabilities of mobility and daily living

An estimated 14 million older adults in the U.S. live with the daily pain of knee osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of osteoarthritis.

Thanks to the deterioration and irritation it causes, approximately two in five people with osteoarthritis develop disability limitations, whether it be lack of mobility or an inability to perform activities of daily living (like performing morning routine tasks including walking across a room, bathing and dressing themselves).

Federal guidelines recommend these older adults with arthritis participate in regular low-impact activity but note that the goal is 2.5 hours a week at a moderate intensity — a level of activity that can be not only daunting but impossible for inactive older adults.

This led the team to study whether or not an intermediate activity level and time goal could help the over 65 crowd remain free of disability.

Related: 4 simple ways to feel better if you have painful osteoarthritis

The investigators analyzed four years of data from more than 1,500 adults in the national Osteoarthritis Initiative and monitored their physical activity.

And, they found that all it took was just one hour per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for older adults to maintain their ability to perform daily tasks like getting dressed or cross a street before a traffic light walk signal changed.

In fact, this weekly hour of exercise reduced their risk of mobility disability (walking too slowly to safely cross a street or less than one meter per second) by a whopping 85 percent and their risk of activities of daily living disability by almost 45 percent.

What do you have to lose?

On the flip side, four years after the start of the study, 24 percent of adults who didn’t hit that hour weekly were walking too slowly to safely cross the street, and 23 percent reported problems performing their morning routine, making them more reliant on the care of others around them.

When asked about the new hour weekly recommendation, lead author Dorothy Dunlop, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said, “This is less than 10 minutes a day for people to maintain their independence. It’s very doable.”

So, get out and walk, bike, swim or dance. Less than 10 minutes a day could be the difference between independence and disability.

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  1. 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report — Institute on Disability, University of New Hampshire
  2. Facts & Figures 2018: Rate of Deaths From Cancer Continues Decline — American Cancer Society
  3. Just an hour of weekly walking staves off disability — EurekAlert!
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.