As we age, joint health is one thing we expect to lose. From back pain to arthritis, it is all considered a part of 'getting old'. Yet joint issues are also common in young people. And while most people learn to live with their joint issues, there are steps that can be taken to maintain joint health well into old age.
A 'joint' refers to the point where two bones meet. Some joints are designed for free movement while others aren't. When we speak of joint health, it is usually with regard to those that allow free movement. These joints are more than just bones – other tissues, such as cartilage, tendons and muscle, along with the fluid found there are also important for free movement. In fact, it is usually through wear-and-tear and deficiencies in these tissues that we develop joint issues.
So how can we safeguard our joints? Follow these lifestyle tips to improve and maintain joint health.
CONTROL YOUR WEIGHT One of the best things you can do for your joints is to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts extra pressure on weight-bearing joints such as the knees and back. In fact, a 2005 study suggests that losing just one pound of bodyweight significantly reduces the pressure placed on the knees with each step.
MAKE A MOVE Exercise can work wonders for the joints. Exercise improves muscle strength and endurance, strengthens ligaments, helps reduce weight – all of which improve joint health. Exercise has even been shown to reduce joint swelling. Opt for low impact exercises such as swimming where possible.
IMPROVE FLEXIBILITY Flexibility is important in joint function. Loss of flexibility alters the function of a joint, increasing the risk of stiffness, swelling and injury. Stretching helps to maintain range of motion and joint health as we age. Be sure to warm up before stretching any joint.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR JOINTS One of the worst things you can do for your joints is to ignore them. Listen to your joints, they usually tell you when you are asking too much of them – from wearing inappropriate running shoes or lifting loads that are too heavy for you. Be sure to consider the safety and health of your joints and look out for signs of over-reach in all activities.
WATCH YOUR POSTURE Posture plays an important role – it controls the stress placed on joints whether at work or at rest. For example, improper posture when sitting can be as dangerous for the joints of the hips, back, neck and shoulders, as bad posture when lifting is for the knee, hips and back. Pay close attention to form when training.