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Exercise To Ease Pain

Many people associate nagging aches and pains with old age. Stiff arthritic joints are considered practically inevitable, as you grow older.

But believe it or not, you can prevent a lot of this pain through simple exercise. Miriam Nelson, an associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts University visits The Early Show to demonstrate, along with co-anchor Julie Chen, four moves for beginners.

We all start losing muscle mass in our 30s. We tend to lose an average of one-fourth to one-third of a pound of muscle a year after age 35. And at the same time, we begin gaining more weight, Nelson notes.

Muscles are the most active tissue in the body. They basically hold the body together and act as shock absorbers to protect joints. If your muscles are weak, your joints don't have any cushion when you walk, bend over, and sit down.

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Strong muscles also keep joints aligned. For example, if you have a weak thigh muscle, your knee joint is not being held in place as it should be. This makes it much easier to tear the cartilage around your knee. Muscle loss also slows down your metabolism, leading to weight gain, which only adds to the pressure on your joints.

So how much exercise do you need to build muscle and decrease pain? According to Nelson, even working out twice a week for 20 or 30 minutes can result in impressive improvements.

In a 16-week-long study conducted by Nelson and her team of researchers, arthritis patients who completed a strength-training program reported a 43 percent decrease in pain, and a 71 percent increase in muscle strength. The subjects (55 and older) also reported that it was easier for them to get out of chairs, climb stairs and perform other activities.

You don't need to join a gym to do the following exercises. Of course, for the best results you should combine these moves with stretching and aerobic activity. Nelson demonstrates four moves perfect for beginners on Wednesday. As you grow stronger, you can add more exercises.

Chair Stand

Strengthens: Thigh and buttock muscles
Eases Pain In: Knees and back
How To:

  • Stand in front of a chair, feet a bit more than hip-width apart, arms crossed.
  • Bending at hip, lowly lower butt to chair, then push up. You can also do this without the chair, stop squatting when thighs are parallel to floor.

Do 2 sets of 12 reps.

Toe Stand

Strengthens: Calf muscles

Eases Pain In: Ankles (loss of ankle mobility is common with arthritis)
How To:

  • Stand on balls of feet on bottom stair step.
  • Raise heels as high as possible. Pause.
  • Lower heels until they are below the step. If you don't feel strong enough to do this on the stairs, do it with feet on the floor and hold onto a chair for balance.

Do 2 sets of 12 reps.

Knee Extension

Strengthens: Quad muscles in leg
Eases Pain In: Knees
How To:

  • Sit in a chair and attach an adjustable cuff-ankle weight to your ankle. Women should start with three-pound ankle weights, men with three- to five-pound weights.
  • Sit in a high chair or raise yourself with cushions so that only your toes are on the ground.
  • Bending at the knee, lift lower leg so it is parallel to floor - your leg will be straight out in front of you.
  • Hold, then lower back to floor.

Do 12 reps. Then do 12 with other leg. Do a second set.

Standing Leg Curl
Back of thigh (an area that's often missed)
Eases Pain In: Knees
How To:

  • Women should attach a one-pound ankle weight; men, a three-pound ankle weight.
  • Stand behind a chair with legs hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Holding chair for balance, lift right heel behind you until calf is parallel to floor. Pause, then lower.

Do 12 reps, then do 12 with other leg. Do a second set.
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