Exercise for Healthy Joints | A.G. RhodesAs we age, we start to feel pressure to watch our weight, manage our blood sugar levels and regulate our intake of essential nutrients. However, in trying to tackle these issues, we tend to overlook one of the most integral components of our bodies: our joints.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 50 percent of seniors age 65 and older have had arthritis at some point in their lives.1 That’s a significant percentage, especially when you consider how joint pain can limit mobility, worsen mood and contribute to senior isolation.

If you or someone you know is experiencing joint pain, there are many steps you can take today to start improving your symptoms.

Start or Continue Exercising

This seems counterintuitive when you’re already hurting, but continuing to use your joints will ease your pain in the long run. You’ve probably noticed that sitting still for long periods of time causes stiffness, making it feel like your joints are locked into place. A whole lifetime of sitting at a desk job or participating in sedentary hobbies only compounds the problem.

Instead of succumbing to your joint pain, incorporate these tips into your everyday life:

  • Perform low-impact exercises – Avoid exercises that put extra pressure on your knees and ankles. Instead, try swimming, water aerobics, yoga, walking, bicycling or using the elliptical.
  • Increase your range of motion – Range-of-motion exercises improve your flexibility and general ability to move. Do them consistently so you don’t lose your progress toward joint pliability. Examples include rolling your shoulders, wrist rotations, leg lifts and head tilts.
  • Strengthen your muscles – When you’re not in the habit of using them, your muscles atrophy and your joints compensate by taking the brunt of the body’s movement-related impacts. Incorporate strength training into your exercise routine to relieve some of that joint pressure.
  • Don’t overdo it – Launching into an extreme workout regimen probably won’t result in sustainable joint improvement. You’ll get sick of it before you even get to see the long-term benefits, and you may end up doing more harm than good. Instead, make small changes, like taking a brief walk around your street in the morning.

Stretch Several Times a Day

Sometimes the hardest part of the day is getting out of bed, especially if your knees and back aren’t cooperating. Starting your day off right with a stretching routine can greatly ease your pain. You can do stretches while you’re still in bed or take a warm shower to loosen up before attempting to stretch. Don’t just limit your stretching to the morning, though. Be sure to stretch as part of your warm up before a workout and as part of your cool down right afterward. Stretch one final time before you go to bed.

Whenever you’re doing stretches, move carefully and avoid pushing your joints further than they can go. Start with a partial stretch and ease into a full stretch as your joints and muscles adjust. Consider doing dynamic stretches that get the blood pumping before doing static stretches, like reaching toward your toes.

While you may not feel results from stretching in the short-term, you’ll see a gradual increase in your flexibility over time.

Improve Your Nutrition

What we consume has a tremendous effect on our bodies. Fortunately, some foods and drinks can help reduce joint pain and strengthen bones, making it easier to stay mobile.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Although the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are still unclear, some experts believe they help joint pain because our bodies convert them into resolvins, which reduce inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, flaxseeds, kale, spinach, brussel sprouts and walnuts, among other foods. You can also get them through fish oil supplements, although this may be less effective.
  • Anti-inflammatory Foods – Joint pain is often caused by inflammation. While anti-inflammatory foods won’t repair cartilage or damaged joints, they can reduce some of your discomfort. Try foods full of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant-rich fruits like cherries and oranges, avocados, leafy greens, green tea and olive oil.
  • Calcium – Calcium helps strengthen your bones and is especially important for people with rheumatoid arthritis, who are at higher risk for osteoporosis. You can get calcium from cheese, yogurt and milk, but if you’re lactose intolerant, broccoli, spinach, kale, sardines, canned salmon, calcium-fortified orange juice and soy products are good alternatives.
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D is essential for health and helps the body absorb calcium. Many foods are vitamin D-fortified, like cereal, yogurt, tofu, cheese, orange juice and milk. Fish is a natural source of vitamin D. If you don’t want to tweak your diet, spend some time in the sun.

Stay in a Healthy Weight Range

As we age, our cartilage degrades and our joints wear down, leading to a condition called osteoarthritis in which the bones take much of the pressure while you move. This can result in painful bone-on-bone grinding, and chipped or damaged bones. Being overweight increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis by a significant amount. Gaining just one pound can increase the pressure put on your knees by four pounds, which means joints are severely affected when you gain larger amounts of weight.2

Weight gain also increases inflammation in the body. By shedding pounds, you can reduce the swelling plaguing your joints.

Reduce Your Joint Pain with A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab in Georgia

The care team at A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab can help patients manage joint pain when they stay with us after recovering from surgery or injury, regaining function after a stroke and much more. Our licensed therapists can guide you through exercises in our rehabilitation gyms, or our aquatic therapy in the pool at our Atlanta location. For more information about our therapy and rehabilitation services, call us today at 877-918-6413.

1 https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/arthritis-related-stats.htm

2 https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/losing-weight/weight-joint-pain.php