Five ways to look after your joints


Try to get a mix of impact and non-impact cardio – but make sure your technique is correct.© Getty Images
Try to get a mix of impact and non-impact cardio – but make sure your technique is correct.

Maintain a healthy weight

Essentially, the heavier you are, the greater the impact on the joints and the stronger the muscles have to be to control movements, explains Laura Jamieson, a chartered physiotherapist.

Ensuring that muscle-mass percentage is higher than body-fat percentage is crucial to maintaining muscle strength, which helps to ensure you move well.

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Registered dietitian Sue Baic, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, breaks it down: “For every 0.5kg (1lb) lost, we reduce the weight going through the knee joint at each step by 2kg (4.5lb).”

Excess body fat, especially around the abdomen, is also inflammatory, making any osteoarthritis symptoms worse.

Exercise

Body-weight exercises such as squats can strengthen the muscles around hip joints. Photograph: Milkos/Getty Images/iStockphoto© Getty Images/iStockphoto
Body-weight exercises such as squats can strengthen the muscles around hip joints. Photograph: Milkos/Getty Images/iStockphoto

“A common misconception is that people think exercise will aggravate joint pain,” says Giles Stafford, a consultant orthopaedic hip surgeon at the Wellington Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK.

But strengthening the muscles around joints is important, says Stafford, especially if you have any issues with them, as it will minimise the pressure on them.

Hip problems, for example, can be improved or even prevented by maintaining a good functional range of motion and muscle strength.

Stafford recommends body weight exercises such as squats and lunges, and light dumbbell exercises such as bicep curls.

Gallery: Most Common Running Injuries: How to Diagnose, Prevent and Treat (The Active Times)

Diagnose, Prevent and Treat Common Running Injuries: Running is not an easy exercise; it puts a lot of pressure on your bones, joints and muscles. Ideally, every step of the way would be pain-free, but injuries are bound to happen. The good news is that they can be prevented – you have to eat, train and run “smart.”Your smartest move will be to listen to your body, Jesse Thomas, pro-triathlete, an Ironman champion and a 5x Wildflower Champ, says. You can’t stop runners from running. “But one of the biggest differences between elite athletes and recreational runners is body awareness,” he adds. You may be one run away from a serious injury.As you get more experienced, you will undoubtedly get more sensible. The recovery process will change, as was the case for Meb Keflezighi, a long distance runner, the first American man to win the 2014 Boston Marathon, and winner of the 2009 New York City Marathon and the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. “I am getting wiser, not faster. I take more recovery days now than I used too,” he adds.There is no reason why professional or amateur runners should get into a cycle of running, getting injured and recovering. You just have to be aware of what you may be doing wrong.

Vary your routine

When it comes to exercise, variety is key. Jamieson recommends a mixture of impact and non-impact cardio for good bone density and strength training (ensuring guidance is sought for correct technique).

Yoga can help maintain good mobility but Jamieson says to combine it with other forms of exercise.

Stafford warns against over-stretching: “It can take the joint past its natural physiological range, which can cause damage to the joint and surrounding structures.”

Eat a Mediterranean diet

food on a plate: A diet high in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and nuts can help protect your joints. Photograph: kaanates/Getty Images© Getty Images
A diet high in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and nuts can help protect your joints. Photograph: kaanates/Getty Images

“Some recent research has suggested that diets high in saturated fat – found in fatty meats and meat products, full-fat dairy, cakes, biscuits, butter and coconut oil – can weaken the cartilage in the knee and hip so that it is more prone to damage and loss of cushioning,” says Baic.

She recommends a Mediterranean-style diet, higher in monounsaturated fats such as olive or rapeseed oil, with plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds.

As omega-3 fat is anti-inflammatory, Baic suggests one to two servings of oily fish each week (or in the recommended dose if taken in oil form).

Also pay attention to your vitamin D levels, which are crucial for bone development: it is believed one in five people in the UK have low levels.

Practise good posture

© Getty

Maintaining good posture is key to preventing joint issues, says Jamieson.

“You want to be very careful of your back particularly: there is no surgery that will replace your discs or spine yet.”

The NHS publishes an online guide tackling common posture mistakes. It is also important to wear the correct, supportive footwear for exercises and activity.



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