Your joints are an integral part of your musculoskeletal system that you must keep strong and healthy for the sake of being a healthy and able-bodied person. Improving joint health is key for optimal physical health, mobility, and range of motion. Your body’s joints live up to their name because joints are two or more bones in the body that join together for movement.
There are two types of joints: rigid and movable. Examples of rigid joints are those in between the bones of the skull, while the most popular movable joints are those in your knees, elbows, wrists, hips, and fingers.
Most joints have cartilage at the end of the bones, which are connective tissues that act as both cushion and lubricant. Maintaining healthy cartilage in your joints is crucial, because it helps you be an able-bodied, mobile person who can walk, hike, run, exercise, lift, and more.
Cartilage decreases friction by allowing the bones to glide over one another and move easily. Cartilage prevents the bones from rubbing together, reducing wear and tear. With cartilage protecting these bones, you’re less likely to suffer from any inflammation or feel any pain when moving.
Keeping your joints healthy is a top priority because joints help you stay mobile. Improving joint health helps you be better able to run, walk, bend, lift, jump, exercise, do sports, and engage in many other activities. Just imagine if you had painful arthritic knees, you wouldn’t be able to do many activities. And being forced to restrict your movement due to joint pain could decrease the quality of your life.
Unfortunately, aging could result in the degradation of cartilage and joint health. Your joint health could also be impacted by an unexpected injury, bearing excessive weight, or genetic predisposition such as in children who are more at risk for juvenile arthritis because of their family history. When cartilage breaks down, it could damage your joints and lead to arthritis, which usually comes with swelling, inflammation, and pain. The best way to go about improving joint health is to strengthen your bones, muscles, and ligaments. When these are strong, your joints are also strong, stable, and resilient. Check out these tips for exercises known for improving joint health.
Cardio for Improving Joint Health and Easing Joint Pressure
If you wish to prevent joint pain and start improving joint health, it is vital to keep your weight in a healthy range with cardio exercises. This is one of the best things you can do for your joints. Joints that bear load like your knees, back, and hips have the tough job of supporting your body weight. And the heavier you are, the more pressure on the joints.
That’s why overweight people are more likely to have joint problems, because their joints experience more wear and tear over time. For optimal health, engaging in at least 45 minutes of cardio, 4 times per week, coupled with a balanced diet, could help you maintain a healthier weight which help ease the pressure you’re putting on your joints.
Research suggests that cardio exercise such as aerobic activities that get your heart rate up could reduce joint swelling. Staying in bed or sitting all day could put you at a higher risk for pain because less joint movements equate to more stiffness. Get up and get moving, even when you’re in the office. Take breaks, stretch, go for a short walk, take the stairs, and change your position frequently.
Choose Cardio Suited to Your Fitness Level
For best results, engage in cardio exercise that’s suited to your fitness level to avoid extra stress on your joints. It could be anything from doing simple jump rope exercises at home, to enrolling in a Zumba class or spin class. Engaging in cardio exercises could help you lose or maintain weight. When you reduce pressure on your joints, you could prevent joint injury and pain.
Consider Low-impact Cardio Exercises, Which Are Easier on the Joints
If you have sensitive knees or other joints that aren’t in great shape, you could opt for low-impact exercises that don’t put as much strain on the joints, such as the following:
- Water aerobics
- Spinning classes (indoor cycling)
- Biking outside
- Using an elliptical trainer or bike machine at the gym
- Doing flow movements such as yoga, pilates, or tai chi
For more details on low impact exercises that are better for your joints, check out this article that details 6 of the best low impact exercises.
If you’re concerned about improving joint health, it would also help to match your exercise program to your body’s unique genetic constitution. For example, people who have a family history of knee arthritis should take extra precaution and perform low impact exercises to avoid wear and tear. Furthermore, matching your fitness activities to your body’s genetic strengths and weaknesses will yield better results. You could take a CircleDNA test because apart from informing you of your ancestry and disease risks, CircleDNA also provides reports on the best fitness routine for you, based on DNA insights that reveal your genetic strengths and weaknesses in terms of fitness.
Incorporate Strength Training for Improving Joint Health
If you want to start improving joint health, you need to build strong muscles that help support and protect your joints. When you don’t have sufficient muscle mass, your joints take a beating. This is especially true for load-bearing joints like the spine, knees, and hips. Engaging in weight training exercises promotes muscle build-up. It also keeps existing muscles and ligaments surrounding the joints healthy and strong. When all of these components are strong, your joints don’t have to bear all the load and do all the work. There are three options for building strength:
- Gym: You can go to the gym and seek guidance from a personal trainer to see how to use the equipment and dumbbells with proper form.
- Home gym: Alternatively, you can do home strength training exercises with dumbbells and kettlebells. You can find a lot of resources with the proliferationYouTube fitness videos.
- Body weight movements such as calisthenics: Another option to build and strengthen the muscles to support joint health is doing bodyweight exercises such as the following:
Again, proper form in executing these moves is critical to prevent joint strains or joint injuries. The wrong posture and movement could add stress to your joints. If you are a newbie, you could work with a certified trainer until you establish a good routine and learn the proper lifting and postural techniques.
Workouts to Improve Core Strength for Overall Joint Health
One of the most important exercises you must include in your workout routine is core movement. Make time to include activities that strengthen your core muscles because most activities from simple movements like bending to engaging in sports hinge on your core’s stability. The core doesn’t just pertain to the abdominals but also includes the back and chest. All of these muscles support the head and stabilize the body.
According to Harvard research, a weak core could impair the performance of your arms and legs. In turn, this saps the power of the moves you make so you’re unable to perform at an optimal level. People with an inflexible core are more susceptible to fatigue, poor posture, lower back pain, injuries, and mobility issues. That’s why it’s so important to take time to do core workouts. You could do the following:
- Traditional sit-ups: These include crunches, butterfly sit-ups, reverse crunches, and oblique crunches
- Floor ab exercises: You can also work on your core with half-kneeling wood chops, Russian twists, mountain climbers, panther shoulder tap, and forearm planks.
- Standing core exercises: As the name suggests, this allows you to strengthen your core while standing. You don’t need to kneel or lie down for these exercises. Examples are leaning obliques, standing crossover toe touch, lunge crunch, cross-body leg lift, etc.
All of these core workouts take care of all your joints and promote optimum performance. A strong core encourages good joint function. Consequently, you gain more stability, improve balance, promote flexibility, and minimize injuries.
Know Your Body’s Limits to Prevent Joint Injuries
To foster stronger joints with various exercises, listen to your body. Some activities and certain moves could be quite tough on your joints to handle, especially if it’s your first time doing them. Don’t rush into things and go slow, especially if you’re new to working out. Most people associate going slowly with doing more low impact exercises. You can always modify exercises to suit your level and prevent injuries. Then, later on, you could build up on the movement and do more advanced exercises at the gym. Your coach or trainer can provide you with tips on how to modify the moves for your joints’ sake.
If you’re engaged in outdoor activities, wear appropriate gear like a helmet, knee protectors, and elbow or wrist pads. Falling without any protective gear could damage cartilage and lead to long-term joint health problems. Moreover, you need to learn how to distinguish between good muscle-building burn versus threatening pain that could result in joint injuries. If you feel as if the pain in your muscles, ligaments, and joints is unbearable, take a break. Personal trainers and athletic therapists are great at showing you exercises that involve less pressure on the joints. Staying attuned to your body is the best thing you can do for your joints.