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As you age, your joints naturally become stiff and less flexible. You may already be feeling the effects as you get out of bed in the morning, sit for long periods of time, or take the stairs.
There’s science behind that pain: The fluid in your joints decreases as you age and the cartilage holding your joints together loses its elasticity and stretch. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to combat this aging process and feel your best. It begins with maintaining an active lifestyle.
Stay Active, Feel Whole
Exercise is one of the best ways to slow or prevent problems with the muscles, joints and bones. A moderate exercise program can help you maintain strength, balance and flexibility. It also helps your bones stay strong and keeps the joints mobile. Best of all, exercise is good for your body, mind and spirit.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that most adults get at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. If 150 minutes sounds a little too daunting, keep in mind you can break it up into 10-minute activities whenever possible.
Grab a friend and go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood, sign up for a new fitness class at the local YMCA, gym or fitness center, or try something new, like swimming or hiking. You’ll hit your 150 minutes before you know it!
Improve Your Range of Motion
Extend, bend or rotate each of your joints to enhance flexibility and mobility. You can relieve stiffness and pain and maintain function.
Strengthen Muscles Around Your Joints
Weight training keeps the muscles that support your joints strong. Resistance bands can safely provide much of the weight and resistance your joints need to stay healthy.
Arthritis Exercise Program
Arthritis shouldn’t keep you from enjoying an active lifestyle. You can do joint-friendly, low-impact exercises to maintain function, range of motion and relieve arthritis pain. Just remember SMART:
- Start low, go slow and see how your body tolerates exercise
- Modify activity when arthritis symptoms increase
- Activities should be low-impact and “joint friendly,” like walking, biking and water aerobics
- Recognize safe places to be active, such as level paths and sidewalks away from traffic
- Talk to a health professional or certified exercise specialist to determine which activities best suit your condition
Healthy Habits Also Strengthen Joints
It’s more than exercise that can keep your joints strong and flexible. Lifestyle choices can also affect your joints — before you even lace up your shoes.
Keep your body well-hydrated. Joint cartilage is mostly water. Dehydration pulls water from your joints to other parts of the body, so stay hydrated to improve your joint health.
Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Lowering inflammation can help keep your joints healthy. Try the Mediterranean diet or load up on berries, nuts and leafy greens to fight inflammation.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Talk to your doctor about a plan that can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. It can help relieve the pressure and strain placed on your joints, ligaments and muscles.
Stop Smoking or Don’t Start
From that first cigarette, smoking increases your risk for lung cancer. Smoking also increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, and increases inflammation, making joints and bones harder to heal.
Pay Attention to Your Body
Mild joint discomfort that occurs during exercise but improves with rest is normal. If the pain doesn’t go away, or stops you from completing your activities, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Together, you can create the plan that’s right for you and boosts your joint health.