Feeling inspired to take up a new sport or do more exercise because of the Olympics? That's great. Doing some form of exercise every day is really important to keep your joints supple and muscles healthy and the 2012 summer of sport is a brilliant opportunity to get active or try a new activity. But I'd like to add a note of caution about making sure you do it safely and look after your joints when you're exercising.
Research that Arthritis Research UK just conducted with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
has revealed that many people in the UK may be increasing their risk of injury and joint problems like osteoarthritis in later life by not exercising safely or often enough.
In the Active Age 2012 survey, we asked 2,583 adults and 1,022 children across the UK about their physical activity levels over the previous week. Just one in five active people said that they 'always' warm up and cool down when doing exercise. Some 24 per cent said they 'never do'. The main reasons given by those who don't warm up were 'can't be bothered' (28%) and 'it's not important' (27%).
Jumping straight into strenuous exercise may increase the chances of incurring injuries. It's a good idea to build in a few moves that help prepare your body for the type of activity you're about to undertake, so for example if you're able to play football side stepping will help prepare your hips and inner thighs for the game. Many sports organisations are producing their individual guidelines with specific advice, especially for children and adolescents.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has produced a free fact sheet on warming up and cooling down, including warm up tips for different sports, available to download at www.csp.org.uk/leaflets
It's not only that. Our survey found that just 5% of adults surveyed are doing the recommended amount of exercise - 150 minutes of exercise a week for adults and 60 minutes a day for children.
While exercising every day is vital to keep joints supple and muscles healthy, just one in 10 (13%) of active respondents said that 'joint health' was their top reason for exercising.
There is some evidence that - for some people - acute sports injuries can be a risk factor for the development of osteoarthritis in later life but more research is needed. That's why Arthritis Research UK is funding the first major UK programme of work investigating the long term implications of sports injuries and the potential development of osteoarthritis. The £3m Centre will launch later this year and will investigate the risks associated with specific sports, whether certain individuals are more at risk and what is the best approach to treatment.
So our message is this - don't be put off from doing exercise for fear of hurting yourself. Do be inspired by the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics and keep your joints as healthy as the rest of your body. But remember to always look after them, and warm up and cool down to help avoid injury so you can carry on exercising and maybe make Gold one day yourself.
See our website for more details, www.arthritisresearchuk.org.