Exercise is paramount to maintain and improve your joint health. But is there more you could be doing? If you suffer from arthritis, or are looking to get ahead of looming arthritic pain, the following tips could help keep your joints healthy and in top shape.
Stay in motion
People who suffer from arthritis tend to shy away from regular exercise or physical activity because of the immediate pain or a fear it may further damage their joints. But staying stagnant and immobile is one of the worst things we can do.
Our bodies are supposed to move, and our joints allow for movement of all kinds. Physical activity helps ease joint stiffness, reduce joint pain, helps maintain a healthy weight, and strengthens muscles surrounding the joints. The benefits of movement for arthritis are well-documented, so do your best to stay in motion!
Protect your joints
Everyone should take steps to protect their joints, and this is especially true for people with arthritis. Protection principles are aimed at decreasing pain and reducing the stress placed on joints. Remember the following for joint protection:
- Pay attention to pain signals. Normal activity may hurt, but if it seems to increase, it’s likely time to rest
- Avoid activities that overly stress joints or increase pain beyond a tolerable amount
- Use proper body mechanics
- Balance activity with rest
- Maintain a healthy weight
Maintain an ideal weight
Echoing the last bullet point, an ideal body weight can greatly assist joint health. Excessive body weight adds stress to joints, especially weight-bearing joints like those around the knee. Studies have found weight loss drastically reduces knee pain, function, and stiffness associated with knee pain.
Practice low-impact exercises
The benefits of regular exercise and physical movement can be reached with low-impact exercise. Low-impact exercises are those that create less stress on joints than high-intensity workout routines.
Low-impact exercises include aquatic sports like swimming, golf, walking, and cycling.
Practice strengthening your muscles
The muscles surrounding our joints should be kept as strong as possible to support healthy joint health. Strength exercises are great ways to strengthen muscles supporting joints. Weight training is the best way to strengthen your muscles, but it’s important to pace your workouts and not over-stress yourself.
A licensed and educated physical therapist can prescribe strength training exercises that will help keep your joints healthy without overtaxing your body.
Regularly attempt range-of-motion exercises
A plague of arthritis is its ability to limit range of motion for people who suffer from it. To combat this effect and even improve your current range of motion, you should routinely put joints through their full range of motion.
Bend, extend, or rotate each of your joints on a regular basis. Doing so will improve flexibility, relieve stiffness and pain, and help keep your joints functional and healthy. Stay in motion!
Try to reduce inflammatory food
Inflammation contributes a great deal to joint pain. So reducing inflammation’s damaging effects on your body is a crucial part of keeping arthritis symptoms under control while improving your joint health. Reducing the amount of inflammatory foods you ingest is one way to help. Foods high in sugar, artificial trans fat, vegetable oils, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol can cause a spike in inflammation in your body.
Additionally, adapting a healthy diet can keep inflammation under control. Some studies point to the Mediterranean diet as a good starting point. Adopt what you can, eliminate what you should, and keep your joints healthy.
Take your vitamin D and calcium
Vitamin D and Calcium are two nutrients that are required for healthy bones (Mom’s advice about drinking milk was right!). Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D can be obtained through diet, sun exposure, and/or supplementation.
Don’t shy away from supplementation. Many people don’t get nearly the amount of vitamins they should from their diet, so taking vitamin supplements can be a great addition to combating joint health.
While everyone knows smoking is not a healthy life choice, few are aware that smoking increases the risk of bone fractures. Smokers are also more likely to incur injuries related to tendonitis or bursitis. Smokers also increase their risk of low back pain and, of course, lung cancer. It’s time to quit smoking, especially if you suffer from arthritis.