If (when!!) our weight sneaks up over the ideal range, fitting into skinny jeans can feel as daunting as climbing Mount Everest. And it’s not just style challenges that come with a heavier frame, as gaining even 10 to 20 pounds can have an impact on our health.  Most of us have heard that heart disease and diabetes can arise from being significantly overweight.  But I had no idea that being 10% overweight actually has health risks, particularly to our joints.

I spoke with Dr. Bryan Springer at the ORTHOCAROLINA Hip and Knee Center, to learn how extra weight, including relatively small amounts, affects our health. He shared how those unwanted pounds can put us at risk for a slew of health problems – just the motivation we need to stay in swimsuit shape year round.

The dreaded scale only shows part of the story according to Dr. Springer, as weight gain has a hidden impact on our bodies.   Every pound we carry translates to 1 ½ to 2 times of force on our joints, so an extra 20 pounds feels like 35 to 40.  And high impact exercise like running ups that impact to 5 to 6 times our body weight.  So, doing the math, running every day when you are 20 lbs overweight, which of course is WHY you are running every day, is placing what acts like 120 lbs of extra stress on your feet, knees and hips.

Beyond this physical stress, Dr. Springer explained that hormones produced by fatty tissue break down cartilage in our joints. So even though our lower extremities (knees, hips, feet and low back) bear most of the burden, our entire body feels the inflammatory effects of extra fat. With these biomechanical and metabolic effects, overweight women are four times more likely to suffer from arthritis.

So how do we identify the number we want to see on the scale? Dr. Springer says the BMI ratio is still the go-to measurement for medical professionals.  It isn’t a magic number – it’s basically the ratio of weight to height – but it’s considered a good indicator of body fatness.   BMI doesn’t take fat distribution into account (a muscle bound football player may have a BMI placing him in the obese range), but it is an easy calculation you can do “at home” to see where you stand.      You can easily determine your BMI with an online calculator.

The good news ~ if you packed on extra pounds over summer vacation but start September with a fitness routine and a healthy diet, a short-term weight gain isn’t likely to have lasting consequences according to Dr. Springer.   Just don’t let those few pounds discourage you and upend your healthy lifestyle, because the reverse is also true.   LOSING just 10 lbs. and lowering your BMI to under 25 can have extremely beneficial health effects.  And you won’t have to buy some new “skinny jeans.”

BryanDSpringer MD

Bryan D. Springer, MD, OrthoCarolina Hip and Knee Center 

orthocarolina logoOrthoCarolina is one of the nation’s leading independent academic orthopedics practices serving North Carolina and the southeast since 1922. They provide comprehensive musculoskeletal care including operative and non-operative care, diagnostic imaging and rehabilitative therapy. They are widely known for musculoskeletal research and training, and their physicians have specialized expertise in foot & ankle, hip & knee, shoulder & elbow, spine sports medicine, hand, pediatric orthopedics and physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Extensive locations all over North Carolina. For a location near you, see the website here.

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