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7 Tips for Healthy Joints

Too often we begin caring about joint health only when pain and stiffness set in. Unfortunately, there aren’t many tests or assessments that can give us an objective look at the health of our joints, and the root causes behind joint pain can come from a variety or combination of sources. Excess weight, for example, can increase knee stress by 4-5 times for every pound gained. Maintaining a healthy weight is one significant part of proactive joint care, but there are many other tactics you can act on today to help keep your joints healthy and pain-free!

Stop pounding.

Jumping, stepping, running, etc. All of these activities can lead to increased joint pain. It’s best to give your joints a break and vary your exercise activities. If you have specific cardiovascular goals, you can still work similar energy systems on an upright bike or even an elliptical. It’s also best to incorporate strength training into your routine. This can help support your joints and even increase joint stability when done properly.

Get wet.

The pool isn’t just for floating with a summer drink or swimming countless laps. Water can be a great source of resistance as well. I’ve had clients who hated swimming but loved running or jogging in the water once they tried it. If you can find a lap pool at 3 or 4 feet deep, you’ll find that this depth creates enough resistance against your body to give you a great workout, while minimizing the negative impact on your joints. It’s also a great way to enjoy pool time without getting your hair wet, which can make a water workout more doable time-wise!

Observe and test the effects of nutrition and supplements.

Have you ever felt inexplicably sore after splurging on certain foods (e.g. wheat, dairy, etc.)? This is most likely because some foods cause inflammation within your body. If you have a personal sensitivity to the effects of these foods, they can make you feel pretty terrible the next day or series of days. The best trick here is to know what foods make your body feel best and which foods cause problems - and then direct your diet accordingly. Supplements can also help reduce inflammation. Some core supplements to take as preventative means for joint health include a high-quality multivitamin (Multi-Vitamin), omega-3 (Super EPA), glucosamine (Joint Maintenance), chondroitin (Joint Maintenance), and curcumin (Rebound). You should take these as a regular part of your supplement routine rather than as a response to joint pain. They can be a proactive means to alleviate pain and support joint (and overall) health.  

Choose your footwear wisely.

I have had many women clients wrangle with me about ditching high-heels. The reality is that heels can be catastrophic when it comes to joint stress, and the damage doesn’t stop at your foot. Wearing any height of heel increases unnecessary stress in your feet, knees, hips, low back and even neck. The key here is to avoid heels at all cost. The flatter the shoe, the less stress your body will incur. (It will thank you for it at the end of a long day - not to mention later in life.) If you absolutely cannot find a flat shoe that you like, take your shoes off at your desk during the day (or after an evening out with heeled shoes), and roll your foot on a tennis ball. This will help break up any of the tightness created by jamming your foot into that cute red pump. Men, this goes for you, too. Check out the heel on your dress shoes or sneakers. The shorter, the better!

Move more.

Our joints respond best to movement. Inactivity (starting at 30-40 minutes of sedentary time) let's your body become comfortable in that position. This makes it harder to get up and move around, thus creating more and more joint pain. You actually have fluid (synovial) that helps maintain and lubricate your joints. It also helps your cartilage absorb shock. Movement and reduced sedentariness can help this fluid circulate and transport nutrients throughout the joint. Some sort of movement every 30-40 minutes can make a big difference in maintaining joint health.

Practice your posture.

Poor posture is something that happens over time as we lose our battle with gravity. Our joints are most efficient when posture is fully aligned and supported by our core muscles. When we fall out of this alignment because of a weak core, we may experience joint pain - most commonly in the lower back. By properly training your core muscles, you will help your body prevent faulty movement patterns that can eventually lead to painful joints. A common mistake I typically see in clients trying to address this pain is replacing their office chairs with stability balls. This can be very dangerous and lead to more pain in the long run. Sitting on a stability ball won’t magically train your core but may create even more discomfort as your core weakens throughout the day. You can still train your core muscles while sitting in a standard chair or even just standing or driving. Start by tightening your abdominal muscles throughout your day while seated. The better your body awareness throughout the day, the better you can be about correcting your posture when necessary.

Get screened.

Movement screens can help uncover various muscular imbalances that can pull joints into compromising positions. By getting screened, a professional may be able to give you stretches and/or exercises that can allow your muscles to do the jobs they’re supposed to do. If ignored, muscular imbalances can wreak havoc on your joints and lead to painful arthritis. For example, you may find that you need to start foam rolling to allow your knee to track more efficiently. Alternatively, perhaps you need to strengthen your glutes to allow your low back to be in better alignment. Either way, let a fitness expert help examine and recommend your personalized plan.

As you can see, there may be many culprits behind joint pain. When it comes to joint health, prevention is the best medicine. You have the ability to live pain free if you practice these tips consistently. As always, contact your physician if you’re currently experiencing any joint discomfort or pain. If you would like to learn more about your body’s mechanics and movement recommendations, contact a health and fitness expert for personalized assistance.

Thanks for reading, everybody. Do you have questions regarding joint health? Share your feedback.

Written by Mitchell Keyes – Life Time Training, NASM-CES, NASM-PES, RTS-123, MAT Graduate

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.


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