The tv commercials for home exercise equipment are not above poisoning the minds of your clients and prospects against real exercise as they hype the advantages of their product. To promote a “non-impact” exercise device, a recent spot showed a model walking on a treadmill while a voice said something like: “…even this can cause harmful impact to your ankles, knees, hips and back, aging your joints before their time.”

Some people who exercise a lifetime do have joint problems in older ages. Others do not. Some think the exercise has protected their joints and kept them from the pain of osteoarthritis or disk degeneration. It has been hard for exercise professionals to give any strong warnings or encouragement about the long-term effect on joints of vigorous weight-bearing exercise, although almost everyone knows that one who abstains from exercise will risk many health problems in later life.

A recent study from Finland (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Oct. 1997) should help relax some of the fears of exercise impact. Past studies have been confounded by genetic differences (regardless of what they do, some people are more likely than others to develop joint problems). The Finn’s study concentrated on identical twin pairs who had very different exercise histories over their 35- to 69-year lifetimes.

From a remarkable database that identified virtually every twin in Finland, the investigators found 154 pairs that had different exercise histories. From this group, they isolated those who had the greatest differences in activity within the pair for endurance activities and power sports.

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