News from Shape Up America!
April 2007
Shape Up America! Newsletter


Overweight and Activity – Effects on the Knee
by Stephen Messier, PhD
Dr. Stephen Messier, an expert in biomechanics and a member of the Shape Up America! Scientific Advisory Committee, offers his thoughts on a study by David T. Felson and colleagues, “Effects of recreational physical activities on the development of knee osteoarthritis in older adults of different weights: the Framingham Study.” It was published in the February 2007 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism: Arthritis Care & Research.

Moderate exercise has become a standard component of care for older adults with knee osteoarthritis (OA).1,3 Physical activity, such as walking, improves self-reported function and physical performance, and decreases pain.1,3,4 However, few studies have examined the effects of chronic exercise on the risk of developing knee OA, especially in overweight individuals. Helping to fill this gap is a study by Felson and colleagues conducted on the offspring of a group of people living in Framingham, MA who have been studied extensively by researchers interested in the relationship between diet, lifestyle and health.

In this study, 1,279 individuals, with an average age of 53, were followed for nine years.2 X-rays of these adults were taken at the beginning and the end of the study. Results showed that walking for exercise did not increase the risk of developing knee OA. In 68 joggers and runners in the group, the results were similar, although the authors noted that the small number of runners prevented any definitive conclusions about running and the development of OA.

The benefits of long-term exercise are well known.5 A physically active lifestyle improves cardiovascular fitness, reduces symptoms of mild to moderate depression, and decreases the risk of illness and death. The Felson study showed that middle-aged and older adults who begin an exercise program will not increase their risk of developing knee OA. But the study also found that moderate-intensity, long-term exercise did not protect the knees from developing OA. These results were independent of the level of body weight. It is worth noting that in clinical trials of older adults with knee OA who were enrolled in long-term exercise programs, joint space narrowing — a sign of worsening OA — is no different than in sedentary adults. 1,3

The results of the Felson study add to existing research that supports including moderate physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise will not increase the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis and is beneficial for those who already have the disease.

Stephen Messier has a PhD in biomechanics and is a professor at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC.

Healthy Knees For All
by Jimmy Smith, CSCS
Knee injuries are so common in daily life that people accept the idea that they have to live with knee pain. Some people have undergone surgery to “repair” one of their knees, but still suffer every day.

Knee pain is often the result of muscle weakness and compensatory contraction of other muscles, which pulls the kneecap in a direction that causes pain. But the problem often begins at a distance from the knee. Since we are a computer-dominated society, we often sit most hours of the day. This tends to weaken our glutes (muscles in the butt), compromising proper control of our hips. Since our glutes are weak, muscles in our hips have no choice but to get extremely tight, which winds up causing problems in the knee.

Here are two exercises that are good for knee health.

1) Glute Bridge. The glute bridge is a basic movement that will help to strengthen your glutes and decrease stress on the kneecap. To perform this exercise, simply lie on your back, with one knee pulled up to your chest and the other knee bent with the foot flat on the floor. From here, you are going to push your foot down through the floor raising your body up. Perform 2 sets of 10 to 15 reps. (If you are a beginner, it is OK to perform only 3 or 4 reps and build up slowly over several weeks or even months to this level.)

2) Hip Stretch. The hip stretch loosens up several muscles in the hip and thigh area that contribute to knee pain. It works your hip flexors, quadriceps and even your adductors. Begin by kneeling with one knee on the ground while the other leg is stretched forward and bent at the knee to a 90-degree angle with your foot on the floor. From here, push the knee that is on the ground into the ground and lean your upper body backwards while twisting away from the knee on the ground and toward the knee in the air. You should feel the stretch in your upper hip and the front of your thigh of the leg on the ground. Perform 2 sets of 3 reps, holding each rep for 10 seconds.

Jimmy Smith, CSCS, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist who has helped individuals and athletes of all levels from high school to college and national ranks optimize their performance. He is a master’s degree student in Human Movement.

Do More, Watch Less: TV-Turnoff Week 2007
April 23 through 29 is TV-Turnoff Week and we want to encourage you to participate by helping families to “Do More, Watch Less,” which is this year’s slogan. When kids turn off the TV, they have two choices: they can do something active or do something sedentary. If they choose activity, that is terrific, and we particularly encourage outdoor play. If kids choose to remain sedentary, we hope you will encourage them to read. Children who read at home are more likely to succeed at school. So be sure to have lots of ideas ready for activities to do when the TV goes off, and use your public library to find age-appropriate books for children.

Aim for these TV reduction goals:

  • Children under 2 years old: Do not watch TV.
  • Children 2 years and older: Watch no more than 2 hours a day.
  • Remove TV from children’s bedrooms.

For more information about TV-Turnoff Week, go to To download a copy of the Do More, Watch Less! toolkit — a TV/screen reduction tool for after school programs or youth organizations that include 10-14 year olds — go to

Share Your Story
We continue to offer our viewers some inspirational stories submitted to Shape Up America! If you would like to share your personal story and be an inspiration to others who desire to lose weight, simple use our story submission system on the SUA website.

Need a boost of motivation to lose weight? Check out how Teresa did it. She took it one step at a time — along with the help of a pedometer. Her own success helped her to motivate others to lose weight, too.

Although I was never what is considered to be "obese", I was overweight and because of that I was not happy with myself. After years of yo-yo dieting, I finally reached a point in my life where I wanted to lose weight for myself. I decided one week before Thanksgiving in 2005 that I was going to eat more healthy and start exercising. My first time exercising I only lasted five minutes. The next night, I lasted ten and so on until I built myself up to one hour a night. My niece who is a Marine bought me a pedometer and I set a goal for myself to walk 10,000 steps a day. That is not as easy as it sounds and meant that most nights after I got home from work I would stand in front of the TV and walk in place until I reached my goal. Eventually I ventured out to walks in the park and doing things throughout the day to increase my steps so that I would not have as many to do at night. The exercise, along with eating healthier, made a HUGE difference. I went from 184 pounds and wearing a size 16 XL to my present weight of 140 pounds and wearing a size 6. Read more...

Recipe of the Month
This tasty, meatless entrée combines fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans for a big boost of fiber and good nutrition.
Makes 6 servings


  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 medium papaya, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 6 cups hot cooked brown rice


  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add all ingredients except beans and rice.
  2. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until bell peppers are crisp-tender.
  3. Stir in beans. Cook about 5 minutes or until heated through. Serve over rice.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 410 calories, 13 grams protein, 78 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 13 grams fiber, 440 milligrams sodium, 114 milligrams vitamin C (190% DV*), 1500 IU (30% DV*) vitamin A, 5 milligrams iron (25% DV*).

* DV = Daily Value

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

phone: 406-686-4844

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Editor: Adrienne Forman, MS, RD

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