Keeping Your Joints Healthy
Joints are pretty complex structures. They allow us to move in a variety of ways. Each joint needs to be looked after correctly and effectively to ensure freedom from pain and no loss of mobility. Our aim is to have enough flexibility in our joints to allow us to complete our daily tasks without any problems. However, too much flexibility can cause joint weakness and eventual injury.
Things like bone density diminishes as we go through life. No matter how much we look after our bodies, bones will lose their thickness and strength, which in turn, will weaken our joints. There are certain things we can do to help slow down this process and to help maintain our normal activities.
Things To Avoid
Our knee joints, in particular, take a pounding throughout our day. Simply walking on concrete or twisting to lift a bag of groceries adds pressure to our knees. Add to this any form of plyometric exercise (exercise that involves explosive movements’ e.g. Squat jumps) and it is no surprise that we may encounter some knee discomfort.
Making sure we wear the appropriate footwear for our activity can help with this issue. Walking footwear should have a slightly raised heel so some of the impact can be absorbed by the shoe rather than impacting on a flat foot. Otherwise, the impact will be sent through our joints from the ankles into the knees and continuing into the hips and back.
Another good point to remember is to keep our joints relaxed. Taking a joint to full lock is never a good idea due to tension being placed on the joint through the elasticity of the ligaments holding the joint together. Instead, keeping a slight bend in our joints, especially while weight bearing, will help minimise the risk of injury.
Exercises To Help Maintain & Improve Joint Health
Rotator cuff rotations with a resistance band or light weight (a small water bottle may be enough resistance) are a fantastic way of keeping those shoulders strong and mobile.
To complete this exercise you need to hold the weight in front of you with a hammer grip. Keeping your elbows tucked in tight to your body at a 90 degree angle, slowly rotate your lower arm (below the elbow) outwards, away from your body and then slowly returning back to the starting position. Repeat this move 15 times on each shoulder.
The distance you rotate your arm is decided by the range of movement in your shoulders. You are aiming for around 80-90% of the full range.
Hip Bridges are a simple way to not only maintain hip health but also to strengthen our core muscles.
Lie on your back with your knees bent to a 45 degree angle and feet flat on the floor. Keep your arms by your side with your palms down on the ground. Pushing down through your heels you should be able to lift your hips off the ground.
Working within your range of movement, hold the position for a second before lowering back down and repeating 15 times.
A simple way to maintain knee health is to balance on one leg for thirty seconds, then switch to the other leg ensuring you are not locking your knees.
If you haven’t had any major knee problems and would like a challenge, you could try body weight squats.
The technique for this is to start with your feet hip width apart and flat on the floor. Bend your legs at the knee until you reach a ninety degree angle. Hold here for a second before pushing down into your heels keeping your knees behind your toes. Remembering not to lock out knees at the top of the movement, push your hips forward before repeating.
Again 15 repetitions each set is enough to start feeling the benefit.
By completing these exercises two or three times a week, you should notice that your joints stay healthy and pain free. Increasing calcium and vitamin C intake is also a simple way to keep your joints in good condition.