Overcoming arthritis with exercise

10 08 2010

I recently wrote an article (to be blogged soon) about the effects of Vitamin D deficiency on health. According to emerging research, a deficiency in Vitamin D is being increasingly linked to numerous diseases, one of these being arthritis, a crippling disease affecting the joints. Arthritis, which can cause excrutiating pain, persistent aching and a difficulty in moving the joints, affects millions of people around the world in its various forms, including rheumatoid, osteo and psoriatic arthritis.

Treatment for arthritis generally involves the use of drugs to ease the swelling and pain that the disease causes, as well as surgery to replace worn and diseased joints. However many people seem to have found relief or even cure, however temporary, through the careful monitoring of their diets and exercise regimes. One such man is Leon Goltsman, a client of mine for whom I provide editorial assistance for his website, the ArtOfMore.com.au. Leon, an Australian karate champion, was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis at the young age of 25. As you can imagine for one so young and healthy, the diagnosis was devastating and Leon became withdrawn, depressed, unemployed and financially unstable. One day however, after Leon’s doctor recommended that he apply for a disability pension, Leon realised that he didn’t have to let the disease beat him. Leon turned his life around by applying the rules of what he now calls “The Art of More“.

Self-help sceptics may scoff at Leon’s advice, and as a scientist even I had to admit I was a little worried at first about working with Leon on such a website, but actually, his guidance is far from spiritual mumbo-jumbo. The motivational articles on his website (which, incidentally, are offered free of charge, with no need to subscribe or pay a fee unlike some other self-help scams out there) are full of no-nonsense, practical advice from a normal, down-to-earth bloke who has made these changes himself and wants to encourage others to follow suit. Far from being cultish or pushy, Leon raises lots of money for charity and even recently appeared on an Australian TV show to talk about his successful life-makeover.

At the centre of the improvement in Leon’s condition and outlook on life is undoubtedly the fact that he has never stopped moving. When doctors told him he would never practice martial arts again, Leon proved them wrong by simply eating well and exercising regularly. In fact, recent research from the Netherlands, to be published in the August issue of Arthritis Research & Care, corroborates Leon’s experience. Scientists looking at the effects of physiotherapy on arthritis patients found that a disappointing number of people – more than 40% – didn’t stick to the advised physical exercise routines that they had been recommended to follow. However, of those who did continue to exercise, significant improvements were reported in terms of the level of pain felt, self-reported physical function, physical performance and the self-perceived effect of exercise. It was noted that the upkeep of exercise dropped off over time – perhaps attributed to dwindling motivation, yet it is clear that regular exercise does help in the management of this disease. While I’m not normally one to advocate the self-help genre, especially those who promote the metaphysical or “quack science”, I fully acknowledge the place in our world for glass-half-full people like Leon who can inspire and motivate others to improve their personal circumstances. And if the theory is rooted in genuine scientific research, then so much the better!

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