How to Protect Your Joints While Exercising
Your muscles matter when it’s time to move, but it’s your joints that make it possible for you to throw a baseball, ride a bike, or run the trails. At First Choice Medical, with offices in Melbourne and Viera, Florida, we understand the importance of exercise when it comes to keeping your muscles, including your heart, healthy. We also know firsthand how vital it is to protect your joints as you exercise.
Our team of orthopedic specialists is dedicated to helping you preserve your bone and joint health. And we’re happy to share some of the same insights we give our patients to help you protect your joints while you exercise.
Keep It Balanced
For many, it’s hard to beat the thrill that comes with running your third mile of the day, flying down the court to make the winning basket, or mastering the latest plyometric agility drills at your favorite gym. These are all worthy pursuits, but they’re also high-impact workouts that deliver a pounding to your joints.
Mixing up your high-impact activity with low-impact workouts on an elliptical machine, a stationary bike, or a rowing machine gives your joints a well-deserved break. These workouts also help strengthen your muscles and give you the same cardiovascular benefits of high-impact aerobic exercise.
Working strength training and flexibility routines into your regular exercise schedule also keeps your workouts balanced and your joints healthy. Your muscles move your joints, but they also help protect them from harm by keeping them stable as they move.
Add Some Yoga to Your Day
Yoga and Tai Chi are workout routines that most people associate with relaxation, but they also do much to promote joint health. For instance, both of these ancient practices focus on maintaining appropriate posture throughout the intricate movements or poses. Once muscle memory kicks in, you’ll find yourself practicing good posture during your yoga routine and throughout the rest of your day. Poor posture is a major contributor to back and neck pain and joint stiffness. Joint stiffness causes swelling that can deteriorate a joint’s health and function over time.
There’s little doubt that yoga, tai chi, and other stretching routines relieve joint stiffness as they increase your flexibility. They also decrease your overall stress levels. Stress increases your cortisol levels and decreases your body’s collagen production. Collagen is substance your body produces to repair and rebuild tissue, and it’s vital to healthy joints. The measured, diaphragmatic breathing practiced in yoga is a natural stress reducer that you can take advantage of anytime stress threatens to overwhelm your commitment to remaining calm.
Choose the Right Gear
Shoes matter, and choices are plentiful when it comes to picking the right model for your sport or exercise activity. They should provide cushioning and support for your feet and fit comfortably without being too loose or too tight. If you’re having trouble choosing which type fits your stride and foot structure, our sports medicine specialist can help you choose a shoe that provides the foundation you need.
It’s also important that you exercise on equipment that is structurally sound and in good working order. That old treadmill you found at a neighborhood garage sale may have been a great buy, but it will throw off your gait and do little to protect your joints if it wobbles when you walk. Choose weights that fit your current level of fitness and always ask for help if you’re not sure how to use a machine at your gym.
Check With a Pro
Any exercise you perform can damage your joints if your form is incorrect. Your physician is your best resource for choosing which exercise is right for your overall well-being and joint health. A sports medicine specialist can help design a program that’s right for you and help you learn how to move in a way that promotes fitness and protects your joints.
Like every other part of your body, your joints require balanced nutrition to maintain good health. Diets low in saturated fat and processed foods that include fish, poultry, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, and legumes help joints function at their best.
You should always check with your physician before starting a dietary supplement, but chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and hyaluronic acid may also be beneficial for joint health.