5 smart moves for happy joints

Most people, as they get older, feel a change in the way their body moves. Getting out of bed in the morning just seems more difficult; there might be a bit of a groan sitting down and getting up; and many complain of feeling creaky.

When and if this happens, all depends on how much attention you have paid to your joints. 

Looking after your joints, muscles and ligaments is a highly worthy pursuit that will keep you in top form for years to come. This is especially important if you are an athlete or train regularly or if you know you are prone to arthritis or osteoporosis.

A joint is where two bones connect. This joining allows you to bend your knees, move your hips, arch your back, turn your head and wiggle your fingers.  Smooth tissue called cartilage and synovium and a lubricant called synovial fluid cushion the joints so bones aren’t in friction with each other. Age, injuries, too much weight, bad posture, wear and tear can damage the cartilage and lead to degeneration or arthritis.

Here’s how to keep your joints healthy:

Do the maths

Keep your weight balanced. If you load anything with too much weight - a trolley, a bakkie, a cart - the axel and wheels are bound to buckle. It’s exactly the same with you. If you are overweight you are putting too much strain on your joints. Most overweight people struggle with their knees and backs. Remember this: for every kilo that you are overweight you are adding four times more stress on your knees.

Keep moving

Go for low-impact movement like swimming and cycling rather than exercise that jolts your joints too much. Don’t sit still for too long – long couch sessions or desk and chair situations are bad for joints. Change your sitting position often, walk around whenever you can – pace out your phone calls and stretch frequently.

Prepare for exercise properly by warming up the muscles with a brisk walk or cycle, then stretching your muscles. Spend additional time warming up parts of your body that have been previously injured. Avoid overuse. If you get sore joints or muscles, don’t persevere. Stop and rest. Allow for recovery time after exercise.

Build muscle

Strong muscles support your joints but without adequate muscle strength more pressure is felt on the joints. Build muscle and keep surrounding ligaments well used with weight training exercises. Schedule a session with a training instructor so you don’t end up straining the muscles you want to strengthen. Do what’s good for you; some exercises may not be appropriate for your body type. If you feel pain, stop.

Improve your posture

Use deep focused breathing to remind you to stand up straight and develop a good posture. This will protect your joints from your neck down to your ankles lessening the strain on your hip joints and your back. It also makes you feel much better. Check the way you lift things - don’t be lopsided and remember to lift with your knees. Keep bags and backpacks evenly weighted i.e. use straps over both shoulders not just one.

Eat nourishing foods

Follow a nutritious diet with calcium-rich foods to maintain bone density. Strong bones keep you balanced and steady and guard against injuries and joint damage. Milk, molasses, yogurt, broccoli and figs are good choices or take a calcium supplement. Vitamin D is also important. Vitamin C and antioxidants are known to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis. Salmon is another good food choice with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that reduce joint pain and arthritic swelling. If you suspect you aren’t getting enough Omega-3’s, take a supplement.

(Article written by Robyn Wilkinson for Wellness Warehouse)

(Health24, September 2012)

(Photo of happy woman from Shutterstock)

Read more:

Sitting pretty for a healthy back
10 easy ways to protect your joints

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