When knees get older...
They’re remarkable, if you stop to think about them.
Joints, like your knees, hips, elbows, and wrists.
You’ve been twisting them, flexing them, putting weight on them and more for a good long time. Each day, they come back for more.
It’s no wonder they might bark from time to time as we start to get older.
While they say “they don’t make them like they used to” about some things, you’ve got to give your joints some credit. They’ve likely served you well for many decades!
But what happens when they do get up in age? And what can you do about it?
As you get older, the connective tissues in your joints, like tendons and ligaments, start to get stiffer. And if you lose muscle strength – another byproduct of the advancing years – it puts more pressure on your joints, especially your knees.
Added weight, or inflammation from any number of causes, can also cause these joints to flare up. Which often leads to slowing down and not exercising
But here’s the thing. Rest is good for an acute ache. But stopping exercise completely often makes these aches and pains persistent.
The old adage that exercise is bad for joints is simply not true. You have to move your joints to keep them limber, and regular exercise is tied to fewer aches and pains, not more.
Which is why I am so insistent when it comes to getting up and moving, even if it’s regular walks. Going for a walk is the easiest way to stay active without putting a lot of pressure on your joints. Just 30 minutes a day can make a world of difference.
Walking is perfect for aging knees and hips because it helps rebuild your joints and strengthen your muscles as you move them. Plus, it can help take the weight off, which also reduces the stress on these joints.
Choose flat trails and paths if you find walking on cement sidewalks a challenge. And a brisk walk not only helps your joints, it aids digestion and your mood too.
Cycling is also a great exercise for joints, for it helps build up muscles around your joints without putting too much added stress on them. The more muscle you have, the more impact it absorbs when you’re doing other things, giving your knees a rest in the process.
And one of the best exercises for joints is swimming. I stay active and run often, as well as work in other forms of exercise like rowing and cycling. But I used to play basketball, and I don’t anymore.
That’s because awkward jumps, landing with a jolt, sudden starts and stops, pivots and flexing are all things I feel for a while in my ankles and knees. But I can spend hours in the pool and my joints feel fine.
Swimming reduces stiffness in the joints and strengthens the bones in your legs and knees. Almost anyone can exercise in a pool, even if it’s water aerobics instead of laps, without joint concerns.
And it’s great for your heart and lungs too.
Your joints don’t come with instructions. But if they did, top of the list would be to move them, as often as you can.
Because while it’s pretty common to experience aches and stiffness as you age, it’s not something you just have to accept.
Nourish your joints. Move them. And keep them flexible and strong, for as long as you can.
And it can all start with a walk around the block.