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6 tips for keeping your joints healthy

30th August 2016

It’s a common belief that the health of joints deteriorates with age, and that arthritis is a natural consequence of growing old. However, this group of ailments is not a natural part of the aging process, and doesn’t affect the entire senior population.

Of those who suffer from arthritis, 2.4 million are of working age, so this condition is definitely not an exclusive seniors’ issue. What is certain though is that the number of people suffering from arthritis is growing, and it is estimated that 7 million Australians will be affected by a form of this condition by 2050.

Arthritis is not a single disease, but a term used for referring to a large number of conditions that affect the joints. Typical symptoms for all forms of arthritis include stiffness and inflammation of the joints, damage of the cartilage, pain and swelling, as well as pain and damage of the surrounding structures – ends of bones, muscles.

Joint instability, balance issues, joint weakness, deformities, posture problems may also occur as a result of tissue damage, and may interfere with one’s ability to perform basic tasks such as walking or practicing physical exercises.

Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout are the most common forms of this condition, representing over 90% of all cases in Australia. Although there is no permanent cure for these diseases, there are treatments that can help in managing and relieving the symptoms. But more important than these treatments are the preventive measures one can take for reducing the risk of joint damage and keeping their joints healthy.

6 tips to minimize joint damage and prevent arthritis

1. Maintain a healthy weight to prevent excessive load on joints

Joints are more likely to get damaged when you carry a lot of extra weight in your upper or lower body, so if you want to prevent arthritis and make sure your joints perform at their best for longer, you should adopt an active lifestyle and a balanced diet that allow you to maintain a healthy weight. Joints in your legs and knees are the most affected when you put on extra pounds, as they have to support most of your body weight.

2. Keep your workouts varied and alternate between routines

Another thing you can do to prevent the wear and tear events throughout life that can erode cartilage and lead to joint issues and arthritis is to alternate the types of exercise you perform. Some forms of training, such as high impact exercises, lifting heavy weights, jumping or running are more likely to cause the thinning of the cartilage that acts like a cushion and protects the joint.

To minimize the damage and keep your tissues healthy for longer, alternate your workouts and opt more often for exercises like whole body vibration, swimming, pilates, yoga, or other forms of workout that don’t put that much pressure on your joints.

3. Strengthen your muscles for better support

The stronger your muscles are, the better they can support the joints, so make sure you schedule time for weight training. Body weight exercises as well as weight lifting are safe as long as you know your limits and avoid training the same muscles each and every day. Whole body vibration is also an option for building stronger muscles and ligaments and increasing the support and protection for your knee, spine and hip joints.

4. Prevent joint damage by minimizing the risk of inflammation

Certain foods are known to favor inflammation, while others are considered joint-friendly as they are more alkaline and less likely to cause inflammatory responses. Foods like avocado, berries, ginger, spinach, apples, kale, dates, cherries, nuts, legumes, whole grains and fish are considered effective in minimizing inflammation and reducing the symptoms associated with joint pain.

Add these foods in your menu more often and consider taking some supplements as well if needed. Fish oil for example, especially the oil obtained from tuna or salmon, is known to protect the joints by slowing down the production of inflammation-signaling cells. Foods rich in vitamin D may also help in minimizing inflammatory responses.

5. Wear shoes that reduce the impact on joints

Wearing shoes that offer proper support during intense physical activities but also while walking or practicing light exercises is crucial for maintaining healthy joints. Choose cushioned shoes that keep your feet and joints stable and absorb the shocks while running or jumping. Also, minimize the time spent wearing high heels, and look for shoes that support your arches while allowing you to comfortably move your feet.

6. Practice flexibility exercises and stretching

Building strong muscles and ligaments for supporting the joints better does help in reducing the wear and tear, but to reduce stiffness and keep your joints properly lubricated you should also add flexibility and stretching exercises to your weekly training routine. These workouts focus on increasing the range of movement and keeping your muscles and joints flexible.

Besides these preventive measures, we also encourage you to move as often as possible and to avoid sitting for prolonged time intervals. Strengthening your core muscles and practicing balance exercises also helps in keeping joints healthy and reducing the risk of arthritis.

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