Taking Care of Business

At various times, all of us are occupied to a greater or lesser extent with activities of daily living that require physical exertion. If we live in a suburb, when we’ve completed our shopping at the local mall we place filled grocery bags into the trunks of our cars and haul them out of those trunks when we get home. If we live in a city, we may carry similarly filled shopping bags for several blocks or even farther to cover the distance between the supermarket and our home. Once we’re home, we may need to store some of the products we’ve purchased on the top shelves of kitchen cabinets, closets, and (again, if we live outside the city) the storage space in our garage. Other typical daily or periodic home-based activities include cleaning, doing the laundry, gardening, and taking out and bringing in trashcans or carrying trash to the disposal unit.

All such exertions require appropriate amounts of strength and flexibility for effective maneuverability. For example, an intact and functioning rotator cuff and sufficient shoulder range of motion are needed to be able to reach up and store on a top-level shelf grocery items that won’t be used for a while. As well, sufficient flexibility and strength in our hips, knees, and ankles are needed to effectively perform a wide range of household functions. Typically, we take all such abilities for granted. We usually don’t consider what’s required from a biomechanical point of view as we go through our day, doing things automatically that we’ve done in the same way for many years. But many of us have friends or family members who have undergone shoulder surgery as a result of an injury sustained while performing a common activity around the house. Many of us also have friends or family members who have had knee or hip replacement surgery, even though they seemed too young at the time to have required such a major procedure.

These surgeries are usually done to fix problems resulting from what is described as osteoarthritis.1,2 Osteoarthritis, that is, inflammation of bones and joints, causes painful and restricted joint motion and places unbalanced stresses on muscles, tendons, and joint cartilage. Osteoarthritis of the shoulder, hip, or knee may make it very difficult to perform activities of daily living. Left unattended, osteoarthritis may certainly require surgery sooner or later. However, for most people there is a much better long-term solution. Regular exercise begun early in life is highly effective in preventing osteoarthritis from developing in the first place.3 If a person is older, regular exercise is also highly effective in providing protection from an osteoarthritic process that may have already begun. With regular exercise, joints and other biomechanical structures are trained to go through their entire available range of motion. Joints are lubricated and muscles are stressed effectively. The resulting activity improves biomechanical function and diminishes the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis. Not only do we gain an improved ability to “take care of business”, that is, to perform our activities of daily living, we also gain long-term health and well-being.

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