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As you get older, your joints start to stiffen and don’t always function as well as they used to. They may hurt more often and not be able to take as much strain. Many people complain about bad knees or hips as they age. Here are some tips for protecting your joints and caring for them so that they’ll work for many years to come.
Watch Your Weight
Too much extra weight is one of the main causes of joint strain in people of all ages. It is a lot more work for your body to carry excess fat, and your joints take a particularly hard hit. Your knees actually bear a force about three times your body weight every time you take a step. So if you weigh 150 pounds, your knees feel like they are taking on 450 pounds. Every pound will actually make a big difference, so losing a few extra will be extremely beneficial to your joints.
Do Low Impact Cardio
High-impact cardiovascular workouts, like running or plyometrics, are great for your heart but really hard on your joints. Many people injure their knees, ankles, or back from too much high-impact cardio. It’s important to balance out your workouts with low-impact cardio. It doesn’t put as much stress on your bones and still gets you a great workout. Biking, swimming, rowing, or using an elliptical machine are all great ways to do some low impact exercise so your joints can take a break. Cardio gets your blood pumping, keeping the cartilage around your joints nourished as well as reducing stiffness and pain.
Building stronger muscles will help your body absorb some of the force put on your joints. Strong muscles prevent your body from overcompensating elsewhere when you’re working out. If you want to help improve your knees, focus on strengthening your quadriceps (the muscles in the front of your thighs) and your glutes (your butt and outer thighs). A strong core will help stabilize your entire body so you’re not off balance and not putting too much weight in one particular area.
While you can’t really stretch your joints, stretching your muscles keeps them loose and makes you less prone to injury. If you’ve ever had pain in your back while exercising, it could be a sign that your hamstrings are tight. Pain in your knees could be a sign of tight glute muscles. Warm up with active stretches before a workout to get your blood flowing and loosen stiff muscles. Exercising with cold muscles can lead to injuries. Stretch after working out when you’re muscles are warm, as well. You can also take a yoga class to build both strength and flexibility.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Inflammation can be a major cause of joint pain, so you want to make sure you’re not making things worse by eating a diet full of inflammation-inducing foods. Processed sugars and white breads exacerbate inflammation. Eat a diet low in saturated fats with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
You need to take rest days to give your body a break. Overuse is the most common cause of injury for most people. Give yourself a day off at least once a week. For example, taking an easy walk or doing some gentle yoga can be relaxing and invigorating while keeping your muscles from getting too stiff. If you start to feel pain in your joints, don’t try to push through it, ease off a bit.