16 September 2019
The results of a scientific experiment show that running can effectively reduce the chances of joint inflammation. Photo: HKEJ
The results of a scientific experiment show that running can effectively reduce the chances of joint inflammation. Photo: HKEJ

Please, no more excuses for avoiding exercise

I have stated many times that everyone should exercise more, and even warned my patients that they would die if they did not have enough exercise. I wasn’t trying to scare them; I just want them to stay healthy.

Recently I have read an overseas study showing the benefits of physical exercise. People should stop making excuses to avoid doing exercise.

In the study, researchers took samples of blood and synovial fluid from all the participants, who were then divided into two groups. One group was required to run for 30 minutes while the other group was required to sit still for the same amount of time. Researchers then took another set of samples from the participants.

In the following session, the two groups exchanged places with the runners assuming a seated position and the seaters being required to run.

The reason for extracting blood and synovial fluid from the subjects is to observe if their levels of cytokine and cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) are affected after doing exercise. Both substances are associated with inflammation and arthritis.

According to the results of the experiment, the static participants had higher levels of COMP in their synovial fluid while the runners had higher levels of COMP in their blood.

The results showed that 1) running can effectively reduce the chances of joint inflammation, 2) running can increase the flow of COMP by reducing its level in the joints and lowering the chances of the substance inducing arthritis, and 3) sitting makes joints more vulnerable and prone to disease.

Although there were only six usable samples, the results were quite significant for a pilot experiment.

As I mentioned in a previous column, patients tend to give various excuses whenever I advise them to exercise more, such as “making ends meet already takes up all the time”, “I am afraid of getting another injury,” or “the more I exercise, the more painful my joints become”.

When we physiotherapists encourage patients to exercise, we have already considered their situation. Patients need not worry about exercise worsening their condition.

This study makes it easier to dismiss patients’ fear that exercise makes them feel worse as it suggests that engaging in sports can actually lower the chances of inflammation in their joints.

Of course, this pilot study only proves that running has this effect and the reason behind is not yet clear. I believe that more studies will be conducted in the future and patients will then find it hard to find an excuse not to exercise.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 10

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]