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Joints play a vital role in overall health. They allow you to move freely by maintaining a durable connection between muscles and bones. Supporting joint health, especially the complex joints in your hips, knees, lower back, shoulders and fingers, can be made difficult by the natural effects of ageing, as well as other medical and behavioral issues. Knowing and practicing a handful of exercises for joint health may do wonders to help strengthen muscles, and maintain your range of motion, well into old age.1,2

Why Is Your Joint Health So Critical To Overall Health?

Joint discomfort and stiffness can strongly discourage physical exercise and mobility. People with arthritis often feel they cannot move, or will experience severe pain if they do. This makes them more prone to damaging sedentary behaviors – such as sitting still for long periods of time. In turn, being sedentary may negatively impact body weight, mental health, and the health of the cardiovascular system.3

The Importance Of Physical Activity As You Age

exercises for joint health | Unify HealthOne in three Americans over the age of 60 are living with osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition in which the surface cartilage within a joint breaks down and wears away, allowing the bones to rub together.4 The results are pain, swelling, and a loss of motion.5

Osteoarthritis is often associated mostly with older people. And it’s true both that the risk of osteoarthritis increases with age, and that most people’s joints weather as they get older. But this doesn’t mean you’re condemned to experience limited mobility and joint pain in old age.6

Regular exercise is the best way to encourage strong joint connections and counteract the effects of natural weathering.7

Assessing Your Diet: Making Good ‘Joint Decisions’

Keeping active also helps relieve one of the other major risk factors for osteoarthritis: being overweight.8 Being overweight places additional pressure on the joints, contributing to the gradual, natural weathering.9

Alongside exercise, a carefully chosen diet can be a key factor in addressing joint stiffness and discomfort. Vitamin C helps regulate the synthesis of collagen, which is important for the body’s connective tissues – including joint cartilage. And calcium and vitamin D are both vital for bone health.10

citrus | Unify HealthWhile fish oil supplements are known to be beneficial, there is no conclusive evidence at present indicating that glucosamine sulfate or chondroitin supplements boost joint health.11

When choosing what goes on your shopping list, help boost your joint health by emphasizing:

  • Leafy vegetables, like kale, broccoli, collard greens, help provide vitamin D, bone-supporting calcium, and vitamin C.12
  • Whole grains, especially oatmeal, may help promote healthy joints.13
  • Sustainably-sourced fish, such as salmon and mackerel, provide omega-3 oils which can also help support healthy joints.14
  • Fruit, especially citrus (for vitamin C) and berries (which contain anti-inflammatory anthocyanins) are always a good dietary choice.15

At the same time, try to avoid alcohol, preservatives, refined sugar, dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt), and processed foods. Processed foods include commercially-produced bread and cereals, ‘ready meals’ such as frozen pizza, and high-carb snacks, like chips, pretzels, etc.16

Can Muscle Strength Encourage Joint Health?

Yes. There is plentiful evidence that a program of regular physical exercise can help mitigate joint degradation. And doctors are recommending carefully-selected strengthening exercises alongside other factors to help encourage good joint health.17

Strength Training The Right Way: Don’t Overexert Yourself

hamstring stretch | Unify HealthBuilding strength in the muscles surrounding your joints is an excellent way to reduce the pain and immobility that can result from worn cartilage. But attacking the problem in a sudden rush might make things worse. The answer is slow, steady progress, and following a daily routine which should include:

  • Leg-raises
  • Hamstring stretches
  • Finger muscle stretches
  • Grip exercises18

Just make sure to get approval from your doctor before trying any new exercise routine. When it comes to pain and stiffness, be aware and be honest. Remember that surrendering to immobility won’t help loosen up the joint. Know your body’s limits, but don’t give up too easily.19

Maintaining Range Of Motion: Extend, Bend, And Rotate

Daily exercises which focus on your range of motion may help keep your joints functional.20 Aim for a strong core and good posture, but again, avoid sudden movements or demanding exercises such as burpees, jumping rope, or doing squats, long jumps, or jumping jacks.21

Instead, try:

  • Shoulder rolls
  • Side bends
  • Hip swings
  • Trunk rotation
  • Hip rolls
  • Knee bends
  • Hamstring stretches22,23

Tip: Use ice to help ease swelling in your joints after exercise, especially if you’ve experienced discomfort while working out.24

Support Joint Health with Aerobic Exercises and Low Impact Exercises

plank exercise | Unify Health

The best approach is to do a variety of low impact exercises.25 Weights and resistance training are good, especially if you begin with light weights and gradually increase the challenge.26 Gym classes or a physical therapist can help. Other terrific exercises for joint health you can do at home include:

  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Calf raises
  • Planks27

swimming | Unify HealthSwimming and water aerobics are ideal exercises for your joints. The water carries the weight of the joint, and this helps some people complete exercises that might otherwise be too challenging.28

Cycling is a low-impact exercise which might be especially beneficial for hip and knee flexibility.29

Pilates, tai chi, and yoga are also great ways to increase flexibility, range of motion, and joint strength. The movements are gentle, slow and repetitive, so you can focus on certain areas, for example:

  • Hip lubrication and strength (opening stretches)
  • Back flexibility (back bends and stretches)
  • Shoulder openness and flexibility (poses and stretches)

Joint Health: A Long-Term Project

Again, make sure to get approval from your doctor before giving any of these exercises a try. You’ll want to make sure to put your safety first. Taking care of your joints is a personal project that offers major rewards. You’ll reap these rewards later in life, with potentially better joint health and mobility. By taking control of your diet and adding simple, daily exercises which help maintain your flexibility and range of motion, you can both care for and support your joints so that they remain functional, well into old age.

Learn More:
Try This Gentle Morning Stretch Routine To Start Your Day Off Right
What Happens To Your Body When You Sit All Day? Health Risks Associated With Sitting Too Much
5 Steps To Eating Clean: Tips And Tricks To A Healthier Diet And Lifestyle

Sources
1 https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=1411
2 https://creakyjoints.org/diet-exercise/range-of-motion-exercises-for-arthritis/
3 http://www.getbritainstanding.org/health-risks.php
4 https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/osteoarthritis.htm
5 https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/kids/healthy-joints
6 https://www.asccare.com/the-importance-of-healthy-joints/
7 https://www.oarsijournal.com/article/S1063-4584(14)01282-5/pdf
8 https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=1411
9 https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/why-weight-matters-when-it-comes-to-joint-pain
10 https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/overview
11 https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-latest-on-glucosaminechondroitin-supplements-2016101710391
12 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322603#foods-to-eat
13 https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/anti-inflammatory/the-ultimate-arthritis-diet
14 https://share.upmc.com/2014/11/4-fish-oil-facts-help-ease-joint-pain/
15 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788027/
16 https://www.verywellhealth.com/ways-to-keep-your-joints-healthy-189256#citation-6
17 https://www.wjgnet.com/2218-5836/full/v10/i7/262.htm
18 https://blog.drseeds.com/joint-health-exercises/
19 https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-causes-joint-stiffness-189345
20 https://www.verywellhealth.com/ways-to-keep-your-joints-healthy-189256#citation-6
21 https://blog.drseeds.com/healthy-joints-tips/
22 https://www.gethealthystayhealthy.com/tools/exercises-relieve-joint-stiffness
23 https://www.hss.edu/playbook/how-to-maintain-range-of-motion-joint-health-as-you-age/
24 https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/orthopaedic-surgery/about-us/ask-the-experts/pain.html
25 https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-keep-your-joints-healthy-with-the-right-exercise/
26 https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/overview
27 https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a20826132/6-exercises-for-strong-muscles-and-healthy-joints/
28 https://creakyjoints.org/diet-exercise/water-exercises-for-arthritis/
29 https://creakyjoints.org/diet-exercise/cycling-and-arthritis/