Caring for Your Joints
Posted on March 28 2019
You already know the importance of bone health, but have you thought about what it takes to keep your joints strong? The cartilage that cushions our joints wears away over time from friction and the weight they carry and move. Slowing this process and learning to support our joints through nutrition and exercise is important to ensure a comfortable aging process and avoid injury.
Weight Loss - Carrying around extra weight puts additional stress on your hips and knees, adding pressure that causes wear and tear to those joints.
Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise - Regular exercise increases blood flow, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the synovial membrane that surrounds the joints and produces the synovial fluid that lubricates them. Aerobic exercise can also reduce joint inflammation. Be sure to avoid high-impact exercises that involve running and jumping, especially if you suffer from arthritis or joint pain. Options like walking, cycling, and swimming can provide you with an aerobic workout without putting undue stress on your joints.
Strength Training - Building up the muscles around your joints can help absorb the shock of regular movement. This doesn't have to mean lifting weights! Physical therapists and personal trainers can introduce you to many different strength training exercises just using resistance. Not to mention that forms of exercise like yoga and even swimming can make use of natural resistances to help build strength. And increased core strength can help reduce the strain of your knees and hips.
Stretching - Getting those joints moving fights stiffness and helps lubricate them with synovial fluid. Exercises like yoga or Pilates can help you reach your full range of motion.
Avoid Poor Posture and Excessive Sitting - Bad posture can put uneven weight on your joints, causing damage over time. Make sure you're sitting properly when you're at your work desk, and take regular breaks every 30 minutes or so to stand, stretch, and walk for a little while. Also be careful of your positioning while typing and using your computer -- our recent article on eye strain has some tips that are relevant here as well!
Healthy Diet - Getting the right nutrients to support your joints is key.
- Calcium: to strengthen your bones. Look for milk, yogurt, cheese, broccoli, kale, figs, and calcium-fortified foods.
- Vitamin D: to help absorb calcium. Look for foods enriched with Vitamin D and get plenty of sunlight!
- Protein: to strengthen your muscles. Look for lean meats, seafood, beans, legumes, soy products, and nuts.
Supplements - These shouldn't replace a healthy diet, but the right supplements can help support and strengthen your joints. Calcium supplements are particularly valuable to increase bone strength and density as you age. But are you familiar with glucosamine and chondroitin? These compounds, naturally found in cartilage, can help your cartilage retain necessary water and produce substances needed for repair.