Healthy Joints for Life: 5 Expert Tips
We all know how important it is to look after our joints. As we age, wear and tear starts to add up and can lead to a whole host of aches and pains (particularly during the winter months).
The good news?
There are a few simple habits that have been shown to support healthy joints and potentially even help manage pain.
In this article, we’ll explore five top tips, backed by science, that you can get started with today.
Let’s take a look.
Tip 1: Keep Moving to Avoid Joint Stiffness
Stiffness in the joints can reduce mobility and negatively impact your quality of life. When it comes to limiting joint stiffness, movement variety is the key. Ideally, we want to avoid being stuck in a single position for a prolonged time period.
You can do this by breaking up long bouts of sitting with short walks or mobility exercises for healthy joints every 20-30 minutes.
As well as helping to reduce joint stiffness, regular movement breaks have been shown to lower the risk of succumbing to an early death. Researchers found that those who sat for less than half an hour at a time had the lowest early mortality risk.
Tip 2: Stay Hydrated to Support Your Joints From The Inside Out
Hydration is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to joint health (and one that’s often neglected). Our muscle tissues are made up of approximately 79% water, and even our bones are 31%. As we age, these issues are more prone to drying out, so it's important to stay hydrated with adequate water intake and by eating water-rich fruits and vegetables.
We can also promote tissue hydration through physical movement. Leading fascia expert Thomas Myers suggests that massage, foam rolling, and regular physical activity can bring water into areas of the body that are stiff and dehydrated (which if not addressed may lead to discomfort and injury).
Tip 3: Eat An Anti-Inflammatory, Joint-Healthy Diet
Inflammation is a natural process that helps us fight off infections and recover from injuries. But when it becomes chronic, inflammation wreaks havoc on the body, often resulting in joint pain. One surefire way to keep inflammation low is to base your diet around anti-inflammatory foods like berries, ginger, turmeric, leafy greens, and omega-3 rich oily fish.
Vitamin D is another important micronutrient involved in supporting healthy joints and bones. Getting out into the sunlight, eating vitamin D rich foods (like mushrooms and fish) and taking a vitamin D supplement are all great ways to top up your natural levels.
You can also support joint health and potentially combat pain by adding collagen to your diet. A small study in 2015 showed that taking calcium + collagen was more effective than taking calcium on its own in supporting bone density.
A more recent review study also concluded that hydrolyzed collagen promotes joint health, potentially restores bone density and reduces joint pain in those with osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Bone broth is an excellent food for healthy joints and cartilage, but for convenience and to get a more concentrated source, you can also opt for a collagen supplement.
Tip 4: Load Your Joints Safely
To truly thrive, our joints respond well to regular loading, so aim to perform exercises like walking, running and resistance training 3-5 times a week.
It's important to be mindful of alignment and joint mobility. Performing a squat with the knees caving in (knee valgus), for example, may put undue pressure on the inside of the joint and lead to problems.
It's also crucial to find the right balance and not overdo it, as too much exercise can have the opposite effect and may lead to joint damage. You can benefit from switching your training up and mixing in non-weight bearing exercises like swimming to reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
Tip 5: Manage Your Weight to Reduce Joint Pressure
Being overweight or obese can put excess pressure on joints and increase wear and tear. On top of that, excess body fat (particularly around the midsection) is correlated with increased inflammation.
The good news is that studies show just a pound of weight loss reduces the load on the knees by 4 pounds.
If you’re currently overweight or obese, simple tweaks like being mindful of portion sizes, increasing your consumption of nutrient-dense foods like leafy greens, and ensuring you perform regular physical activity can all make a difference.
Over to You:
Aching and pains can be frustrating at the best of times, and debilitating at the worst. Now you're armed with five simple habits to maintain healthy joints, experiment with a few and let us know how you get on!