Keeping your body moving as you age helps you stay healthy in a variety of ways. One of them is by keeping your joints strong. Joint health relies on a combination of strength training, exercise and a healthy lifestyle. If you are a family caregiver, it also includes protecting your back and neck while you are helping your aging family member.
Here are nine ways you can protect your bones and joints:
1. Get Moving: One of the best ways to keep your joints strong and flexible is to get moving. Healthy exercise builds strong muscles. They help provide protection for your joints. If you’ve led a sedentary life for any length of time, however, check with your doctor before getting started.
2. Moderation: Many of us make the mistake of doing too much when we first begin exercising. Not only will that put you at higher risk for injury, it may also be a disincentive to stick with it. Instead, start small and build up to thirty minutes of active exercise each day.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight is hard on your body. Your heart and your joints have to work harder. Being even ten pounds overweight can increase the impact on your knees by as much as 30-60 pounds.
4. Warm Up: Remember to take time before you exercise to give your muscles and joints a good warm up. Stretching and gentle exercise can help you prevent injuries.
5. Consider Low Impact Exercises: You don’t have to run ten miles a day or join a high-impact aerobics class to get fit and stay fit. Low impact exercises such as biking or swimming yield just as many benefits and put less stress on your joints.
6. Build Core Strength: Having a strong core can protect your neck, back and knees. It can also help you maintain flexibility that may prevent a fall. Yoga and Pilates are two types of exercise that can help you strength your abdomen, back and chest.
7. Eat Your Fish: Studies show that Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can help fight inflammation. That means less swelling and pain in joints. Tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring are good ones to work in to your diet.
8. Daily Vitamin D and Calcium: These two essentials go hand-in-hand in promoting healthy bones and joints. Vitamin D helps your body process calcium. If you aren’t sure you are getting enough of these in your daily diet, talk with your physician. They may recommend supplements to help.
9. Stand Up Straight: Your mother really did know best when she told you to “stand up straight.” Slouching puts pressure on all of your joints from your neck to your hips to your knees. Make a conscious effort to mind your posture whether you are sitting or standing.
Finally, if you do overdo it and your joints become painful, ice can help. Wrap ice in a towel and apply it to the affected area for 20 minutes at a time. A bag of frozen vegetables will work too. Just be sure not to put the ice directly on your skin to avoid burning or irritating it.