Dan and his wife of 47 years, Sandy, have arthritis. So do I in my right thumb, but I'm not complaining. Dan feels crippling pain in his knees, and Sandy wakes up achy in both shoulders — and they're both wondering if the time's come for them to hang up their tennis rackets.
After all, everyone knows that vigorous exercise can cause arthritis and even make it worse.
Right? WRONG. That's one of those medical myths that refuses to die, right up there with margarine being better for you than butter. Don't believe it. In fact, the opposite it true. People with arthritis soon discover that if they don't stay active and keep exercising, they have more pain, more stiffness and more fatigue.
According to a new report by the Harvard Medical School called "Arthritis: Keeping Your Joints Healthy," one of the best things people with arthritis can do is jump in a warm-water pool (about 90 degrees Fahrenheit) for a water-based program developed and promoted by the Arthritis Foundation. Strength and resistance training using weight machines, free weights and resistance bands is also very helpful for reducing the pain of arthritis while making your muscles, bones and heart stronger.
The report also singled out tai chi — a low-impact Chinese martial art that involves slow, graceful, circular motions and focused breathing — as an excellent way for arthritics to increase flexibility, strength and balance.
Another exercise that can lessen the pain of arthritis involves suspending disbelief and sprinkling some gin-soaked raisins on your morning oatmeal. So much more fun than munching Motrin.
Gin-soaked raisins are an old folk remedy for arthritis that's been around 100 years, but it's making a comeback lately, thanks to Larry Wright, a businessman from Louisville, Colo., who suffered from arthritis for many years. Then he discovered the soothing affects of gin-soaked raisins. He calls his company Drunken Raisins (www.drunkenraisins.com), and he's even managed to win the support of Dr. Oz, who recently added gin-soaked raisins to his list of approved home remedies for arthritis pain.
Why gin? The juniper berry is known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory, and for reasons we don't really understand, eight to nine golden raisins a day soaked in gin seems to be just the right amount to stave off the pain. Would more be even better? It's a sobering thought.
Q&A: WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT FAT KNEES?
Dear Marilynn: I enjoy reading your column very much. Here's a question I've been hoping someone, somewhere could help me with. Is there a way (exercise of course, not surgery), to slim these fat knees of mine?
I'm so embarrassed. They've always been this way no matter what my weight. I'm not totally fat, but for some reason, I have big, thick legs and the knees to go with them. I've done exercises at the gym I used to attend and tried floor exercises at home, and nothing seems to work. Any suggestions? Thank you very much. — Margie
I have several good ideas for you, Margie. They all stem from the fact that you can't spot reduce. There is no one exercise that targets and slims chubby knees, so forget about that approach. What you can do is reshape both legs (and your entire body) through strength training.
I'd start with squats and lunges, but you must take the time to learn the proper and safe way to do them. No shortcuts, please. In time, as your thighs get stronger, your calves more shapely, your entire leg will look better to you, and you can stop focusing on your knees.
In fact, from the start, I want you to make friends with your fat knees. Talk to them, honor them, stop hating them. Embarrassment over a body part is a waste of energy. Change begins with accepting the body you've been given, and working to make it healthier and happier.
One wonderful way to do that and shape up your legs in the process is to do yoga. It will take you down the path to mindful eating and conscious breathing, two powerful allies in your pursuit of a more positive body image. Good luck, lose some weight, and keep me posted.
ENERGY EXPRESS-O! LOSE SOME WEIGHT?
"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't." — Erica Jong