Are your joints under attack?
Body parts don’t have expiration dates.
We can’t turn over our elbow or knee to know for sure that yep, it’s about to go “bad.”
As we age, it’s natural for changes to occur. And we often feel it quite literally in our bones.
Still, as common as that is, it’s not inevitable. There are ways to keep limber, protect your joints, and stay active and strong for years to come.
So short of a “best by” date, how do you know if it’s time to start paying closer attention to your knees, hips, or other joints?
And if the signs are there… what can you do about it?
It’s time to pay attention to how you move, and whether certain movements are more challenging than before.
Often, it’s going up and down stairs. Or getting up from a couch or chair.
Achiness in the morning, as you swing your legs out of bed.
Swelling or tenderness in hands, ankles or knees.
Trouble bending, or squatting. Or rising from the floor if you find yourself down there (especially if you’re down there to roughhouse with a grandkid or pet).
Maybe you feel it when you walk. Or more often, after you’ve spent a day on your feet.
These are the warning signs that your joints may need some care and protection. But you don’t have to accept a slowdown.
If your joints are under attack, I recommend you fight back.
But where do you start?
First, as with most things health-related, it’s critical to maintain a healthy weight.
Extra weight means extra strain on your weight-bearing joints, such as your knees, ankles, hips, and back. Each pound of excess weight means an additional four pounds of extra pressure on your joints. Dropping a few pounds can limit the stress on your joints and reduce your risk of joint damage.
If your joints are sore, you may avoid exercising them. But unless you’re injured, this is typically counter-productive.
Staying active actually does wonders to reduce stiffness in your joints. Make a point to move around often during the day and avoid staying in one position for too long.
Low-impact exercise —walking, swimming, cycling, strength training, and stretching — can help keep joints mobile and may even help you shed some extra pounds, which as I said, is a big plus.
When you choose activities, focus on working in those that build strength.
Strong muscles and bones provide support and stability for your joints. Adding strength training exercises can help build the muscles that keep your joints safe and mobile.
Strength training should also include core-strengthening exercises for your abdominal, back, and chest muscles. Why? Because a strong core can help prevent problems with balance, falls, and other accidents that could cause joint injury.
Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking or running, can also help you to maintain strong bones.
Pay attention to your posture, especially if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer.
Proper posture can prevent added stress on your joints and reduce your risk of injury to the surrounding muscles. Posture is especially important when performing repetitive motions, sitting, and standing. And be extra careful if you are carrying or lifting heavy objects.
And lastly, don’t forget about your diet.
Eating healthy may improve your joint health and help you lose excess weight (there’s that tip again). Lean proteins build strong muscles. You’ll keep your bones strong by eating foods with calcium and Vitamin D. Fish, such as salmon and mackerel, contain omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation in your joints. Other foods, such as olive oil, green leafy vegetables, berries, and nuts may help to reduce inflammation too.
You can also target unruly joints with specific herbs, especially extracts that are concentrated and proven to get to the root of joint discomfort and the inflammation that can make it worse.
While your body doesn’t come with an instruction manual, you do get a lot of messages about how it’s working, and when it’s time to do something about it.
Particularly when it comes to your joints, a little preventive maintenance can go a long way to keeping you limber, active and comfortable… for the long haul.