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Can physical activity improve MSK conditions?

Exercise at the right level can ease stiffness, improve joint movement, restore mobility and preserve MSK health.

Exercise at the right level can ease stiffness, improve joint movement, restore mobility and preserve MSK health. Regular physical activity for people with MSK conditions reduces pain and disability, improves mental health and wellbeing, and helps with other long-term conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Good physical and mental wellbeing promotes independence, therefore, reducing the cost and burden to the health care system.

The UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) physical activity guidelines for adults recommendations on the amount of physical activity we need to do to keep ourselves healthy.

Adults should:

  • aim to carry out activities to maintain muscle strengthening on 2 days per week
  • engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week
  • minimise time spent being sedentary and when possible, break up periods of inactivity with some form of recommended activity.

Minimise sedentary time and when possible, break up periods of inactivity with some form of recommended activity.

Maintain muscle strength in older adults, poor muscle strength increases the risk of a fall by 76% and those who have already had a fall are three times more likely to fall again. Activities to improve or maintain muscle strength, balance and flexibility on at least 2 days a week are therefore important for older adults.

Strengthening activities should be in major muscle groups, such as resistance exercises, yoga or carrying heavy shopping. This can help lower the risk of sarcopenia, or loss of muscle mass, which is associated with ageing but can occur in response to immobility at any age. An evidence review found that muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities continue to have great health benefits for all adults, including older adults aged 65 years and over.

Activities found to have the most benefit for muscle and bone strengthening include:

  • Aerobics / circuit training
  • Resistance training (usually training with weights, but including body weight exercises which can be performed anywhere)
  • Ball games
  • Racquet sports
  • Dance
  • Nordic walking

Physical activities for Adults and Older Adults Physical activities for adults and older adults. This gives guidance on what activities adults can do to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.

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Musculoskeletal Health: A Public Health Approach

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