No Bones About It – Joint Health is Important
Taking care of our bones and joints needs to start well before “old age” begins to set in. None of us, regardless of age, have the time or energy to slow our healthy lifestyles down due to arthritis or joint pain. Take a few minutes to read these tips to keep your joints in tip top shape for the long haul!
#1. Proper Hydration
Yes, again with the water! We know, it’s literally good for nearly everything. You may have noticed more stiffness and joint pain as you’ve gotten older. We tend to automatically blame age when we may be overlooking a critical cause in joint health: hydration. Along with sulfur compounds, glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) form a thick gel-like liquid that supplies cushioning, lubrication, shock-absorption and nutrition to the cartilage in our joints. They are primarily the matrix or framework around our joints, much like a sponge. For the sponge to be “full” and “cushiony,” it needs to be filled with water. As we age, these matrixes begin to break down and our ability to keep our joints hydrated lessens.
Obviously, we can lessen the damage by drinking plenty of water every day. How much is “plenty?” It may seem like a lot but a 1/2 gallon a day is a good goal for most people.
Increase each day, even if it may not seem like it’s doing much good in the beginning. Other than increasing your trips to the bathroom. This will pass as your body learns again to retain a larger amount of water. Your tissues, cartilage, matrixes, etc. will begin again to use the water. Much like soil that has dried up, it takes a few times to before it begins to fully absorb the rain. A similar thing happens with our joints.
#2. Scaling Back
It’s funny how when we are younger, we think keeping our slim and muscular figures matters most. Over time, it is natural to let ourselves “go” a little but the older version of yourself will thank you for keeping your weight within a healthy range! It isn’t about being a size 2 or having the biggest biceps at the club, it become about maintaining a healthy weight. It turns out our joints perform better when they are asked to carry an “average” amount of weight. As do our internal organs, circulatory and respiratory systems.
The pressure to lose weight should never be about physical appearance or looking a certain way to please another person. Nor is there one magical chart that all doctors agree upon that defines a “healthy weight.” But, inside all of us, we know when we are there and when we are not. Ultimately, it is on our shoulders to bear. And, there are genetic factors that make losing weight substantially more difficult for some people than others. Again, weight loss it never about fitting a mold, it is about being the best version of you that you can be.
#3. Exercise – What?!?! My joints hurt…
It may seem counterintuitive but exercise helps stiff muscles feel less achy. Getting up and moving makes your body feel good! If joint pain is an issue, we don’t recommend that you go run a marathon or do exercise that give your muscles and joints extra pounding. Low-impact aerobics, swimming, Pilates, yoga, walking, elliptical trainers, etc. The clubs are packed with equipment that will work for you; as well as personal trainers and world-class instructors to guide you through workouts that fit your needs.
Focus workouts on exercises that strengthen your core, back and chest. Having strong abs and back muscles help with balance and prevent falls in later years. Nope, you don’t have to have a six-pack or look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, just strengthen what you have and you’ll be great!
Most importantly, don’t opt out just because of a little pain. Instead, get off the couch and get moving! You’ll be glad you did.
#4. Sit Up Straight, Young Lady (or Man)
Channel the voice of your grandmother when you are sitting and straighten yourself up. Turns out, she and Ms. Manners had a very valid point, good posture matters. Not only does it look better. (C’mon, admit it…) But, slouching is bad for us! It’s not good for our joints. Standing and sitting up straight protect our joints from our necks to our knees. Grandma never told us that! Good posture helps guard your hip joints and back muscles.
Posture is also important when lifting and carrying. When lifting, use the biggest muscles in your body by bending at your knees instead of bending your back. When carrying a backpack, be sure to put it over both shoulders instead of slinging it over one. Being lopsided puts more stress on your joints.
#5. Drum Roll Please…. Diet
What would a “Tips” list be without mentioning a healthy diet? We can’t possibly suggest you exercise, lose weight and drink more water without capping it off with the mention of milk, yogurt, broccoli, kale, figs, and fortified foods like soy or almond milk, can we? If kale, soy milk and figs aren’t quite your thing, calcium and vitamins D supplements will do but just be sure to get enough of these all important nourishments. Otherwise, all your other hard work might be for nothing and that would be a shame. Diet pulls everything else we do together for us. It can work for us or against us, like anything else. And, like anything else, it doesn’t have to be perfect but aiming to have it be the best you can, pay huge dividends in the future.