Obesity is a significant detriment to musculoskeletal health, and a common risk factor for patients with orthopedic conditions, such as osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis impacts more than 32 million adults in the U.S., and the progressive disease is characterized by a breakdown of cartilage, caused from normal or excessive wear and tear on the joints, resulting in impaired quality of life. One of the most preventable risk factors for the development of osteoarthritis is obesity, a condition that impacts one in three adults.1

Obesity Impacts Joint Health

A number of studies have proven that obesity adversely affects bone and joint health, with a strong association between body mass index (BMI) and osteoarthritis of the hip and knee joints. Each pound of body weight places four to six pounds of pressure on each knee joint, so obese individuals are twenty times more likely to need a knee replacement than those who are not overweight.2 The detrimental effects of obesity on surgical outcome results and complication rates are also well documented.


Diet and Exercise are Key

Controlling your diet and incorporating exercise into your weekly schedule can help you sustain a healthy weight and prevent joint problems. A healthy diet, combined with low impact exercise, keeps weight under control and reduces the stress placed on joints. This includes avoiding food and beverages that are high in sugar, reducing portion size, and eating a plant-based diet high in Omega-3s and antioxidants that reduce joint inflammation. Of course, exercise is also critical in any weight-loss program, and even those who suffer from joint pain or osteoarthritis may benefit from exercise under the guidance of a physician, including simple range-of-motion exercises, strength training, and low-impact aerobics.

There are a number of risk factors associated with osteoarthritis, including age, joint injury or overuse, gender, and genetics; however, obesity is one of the risks that can be controlled. So, reduce the pressure and wear-and-tear on your weight-bearing joints by getting physically active with moderate, low impact activities like walking, swimming, or biking, and setting and working toward an attainable weight-loss goal.

Authored by Zach Meeker, Research Assistant for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center


1,2 American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons. The Impact of Obesity on Bone and Joint Health Position statement.

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