Did Fonda's Videos Give People Arthritis?

It was an exercise revolution and an unparalleled convenience: the ability to do aerobics at will from the comfort of your living room.

Lead by actress Jan Fonda, the 1980s was the age of exercise videos. But now many of the people who used them to get in shape are finding that they actually took a toll on their bodies.

Sheila Wares remembers the high impact aerobics well — and still keeps a library of titles under her television, although they've all been banned from her VCR thanks to a bad knee.

"It's amazing when you think about your knee and how much it affects so much of everything when it comes to exercise, even with yoga you know," she told The Early Show medical contributor Dr. Emily Senay. "Try and do a downward dog on a knee that won't cooperate."

According to Wares' doctor Jennifer Solomon, she isn't alone. Many baby boomers are experiencing this problem. She sees many patients with similar over-use injures at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery.

"These are the people who did the aerobics classes five or six days a week, the high impact aerobics, the step aerobics with three tiered steps," said Dr. Solomon, a physiatrist. "These are the people who thought they were doing the right thing and following the trend of the '80s."

Dr. Solomon says the repetitive nature of high impact aerobics has had an adverse affect on many of the once devoted Fonda fans like Wares.

"They have knee problems," she said. "They all have early arthritis, or have terrible arthritis where they can't go up and down stairs."

Today, Dr. Solomon said these high impact exercise techniques are basically defunct because we now know how to exercise smarter.

"You go into any health club and take a look at their schedule you'll see that step aerobics is no longer there. High impact activity is no longer there," she said. "People are now into core stability and power workouts, which is less stressful on the joints."

Today the only exercise Wares gets are the daily walks with her dog Maxine, which is far from the high level of activity she used to enjoy.

"You were under the impression that you were doing the right thing and keeping yourself healthy," she said, "but it turns out to be a cruel irony in the long run, and did the opposite of what you were striving for."
  • Caitlin Johnson

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