Strong joints are essential for enabling us to move freely as we age. Exercise not only helps to keep joints flexible and strong, but it also promotes weight loss, which has the added benefit of taking the pressure off your bones and joints. Here are some suggestions to help exercise safely and take care of your joints.
Warm up first
It’s essential to warm up before doing exercise to prepare your body for rigorous physical activity. Failing to warm up properly can result in strain or damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones and joints. Make sure you warm up all muscle groups that will be involved in your exercise with gentle stretches, such as side bends, shoulder shrugs, arm circles, overhead stretches and bending down to your toes while keeping a slight bend in your knees. Remember to ease your body into the stretches and don’t push further than is comfortable. Find out more about warming up at Livestrong.com.
Choose exercises for joint strength
Strength training will make your bones and muscles strong by placing them under stress –as the saying goes, ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’.
Muscle mass also decreases with age, so it then becomes even more important to lift weights and perform weight-bearing activities, as they will help build the muscles surrounding your joints, providing cushioning and support. You can use hand weights, resistance bands or even a one-litre water bottle with which to train. Ensure that you use weights you can manage with good technique. Talk to a certified personal trainer to find the best strengthening program for you.
Aerobic exercise (cardio) is great for managing weight and maintaining a healthy heart. While cardio exercise may not do much to strengthen joints, the associated weight loss helps you to take the burden off joints, especially your knees and hips.
Those with aching joints would do best to focus on low impact exercises, such as swimming, Pilates, tennis, golf and dancing.
Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have bone and joint problems.
Know your own limits
For exercise to be beneficial, it should challenge you and cause your heart rate to increase. But at the same time, it shouldn’t be too extreme. Muscular fatigue in the day or two following is normal and shows you’ve done a good workout. However, there shouldn’t be any lasting pain in your joints or bones. Be aware of your own limits and what your body can do. If you experience pain that lasts longer than a few days, or have pain during a workout, stop doing the exercise and consult a doctor.