How to Protect Your Joints During Exercise
The joints are the junction points between two bones. They contain synovial fluid, that acts as a cushion. If you were to dissect this area of the anatomy, you would also find cartilage and a framework of other types of connective tissue like tendons and ligaments.
Joints are a very important part of the human structure that you need to keep healthy. If they are in good working order, you will be able to move gracefully and without any problems as you age.
Although a number of causes can be cited for join pain, arthritis is one of the most common. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2013 and 2015, approximately 54.4 million US adults had some form of arthritis.1
When it comes specifically to exercise, there are some key ways to protect your joints from future pain and trauma, regardless if it is stemming from arthritis or not. By following these strategies, you can remain as mobile as possible and prevent any further joint discomfort.
What Happens to Your Joints During Exercise?
First things first, you should learn a bit more about the effect exercise has on your joints while you are exercising. A common buzzword used around gym floors is “impact.” This describes the force that gets transferred through your entire network of joints, known as the kinetic chain.
Running, jumping rope, and doing plyometrics are the main types of exercise that cause impact on your joints. This is actually both good and bad news. The bad news is obvious.
Continuous load on your joints can cause them to degrade and break down over time. That subjects you to pain and inflammation, and can theoretically increase your risk for degenerative arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis.
The good news is, “weight-bearing” exercise as it’s often called, can strengthen the bones and slow bone loss. Overall, you should focus on the minimum effective dose for the benefits without overdoing it.
How to Protect Your Joints During and After Exercise
1. Perform an adequate warm-up. Cold joints are inflexible and they do not like to move well. Much like tight and cold muscles, this can be a potential problem. One of the ways to prevent injury and keep your joints safe is by doing a short warm-up consisting of a lighter form of the exercise you are going to do.
For example, do 5 to 10 minutes of brisk walking before you go for a run.
2. Stretch well before you begin your workouts. There are some people who feel stretching is overrated in regard to exercise. However, it’s the type of stretching you do before your workouts that matters most. And when it comes to protecting your joints, you want to focus on dynamic stretching.
This involves subtle movements repeated for a series of reps. Arm and leg circles, arm crossovers, alternating toe touches and spinal rotations are good examples.
Dynamic stretches acclimate your joints and body to movement, while bringing oxygen-rich blood flow to them. Your joints will then be healthy and in good working order during exercise.
3. Take your workouts to the pool. When you are in water, you are buoyant, which takes stress away from your joints. Plus, if you use a pool at a gym, it’s likely heated. The warmth from the water enhances blood flow, making your joints feel even better.
You can simply swim for your main exercise, or run back and forth through the water, or attend a water aerobics class. All of these are good strategies for joint preservation.
4. Finish with static stretches. The end of a workout marks the time when you should do static stretches, which are held for a period of time. This keeps your muscles and connective tissue that adhere to your joints more pliable. The end result is there will be less “torque” on your joints and they will be healthier and in better working order for your next bout of exercise.
A standing quad stretch where you pull your foot up toward your butt and hold is a good example of a static stretch. Focus on doing stretches for all the major muscles you activated in your workout.
- Tags: Staying Active
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