Exercise Can Keep Joints Strong
Exercise helps keep joints flexible and strong. It can also help you lose weight, which takes pressure off aching joints. Every pound you lose takes 4 pounds of pressure off your knees and 6 pounds off your hips. If you have any joint issues, ask your doctor before you start a new exercise program so you know what you can do safely.
Warming Up Is Critical
Warming up with gentle movements helps get your body ready for a workout. Simple exercises such as side bends, shoulder shrugs, arm circles, overhead stretches, and bending toward your toes are all good warm-up moves. Repeat each one three to five times. Remember, exercise shouldn’t cause pain — ease into your activity. Save the stretch-and-hold movements for after your warm-up or workout.
Take the Plunge
Getting active strengthens the muscles that support your joints. Aerobic exercise (or cardio) helps your most important muscle: your heart. Because you’ll be exercising several times a week, start thinking about what activities appeal to you, whether they’re swimming, tennis, basketball, or something else you enjoy.
Strengthening exercises such as weight training help you build the muscles that support your joints. You can use hand weights, resistance bands, or even a 1-liter water bottle. Start with weights that you can lift 12 to 15 times without slouching or poor form. Talk to a certified personal trainer to help design the best strengthening program for you.
Stand with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart. With your arms overhead, hold one hand with the other. Pull upward while you lean straight over toward your left side. Keep your lower body straight. You should feel the pull along your right side. Hold 15 to 30 seconds. Do this two to four times on each side.
Stand with your back straight and your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your left arm and bring your elbow straight up so that it points to the ceiling. Hold your elbow with your right hand. Pull your elbow gently toward your head. You’re stretching the back of your bent arm. Hold 15 to 30 seconds. Then switch elbows. Repeat two to four times on each arm.
Place your hands on a wall, the back of a chair, a countertop, or a tree. Now step back with your right leg. Keep it straight, and press your right heel toward the floor. Push your hips forward and bend your left leg slightly. You should feel the stretch in your right calf. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat two to four times for each leg.
You’ll feel this stretch along the front of your thigh. First, stand on your left foot. (You can hold onto something for balance.) Bend your right knee, raising your ankle to your right hand. Grab hold of your ankle, pulling your foot toward your butt to deepen the stretch. Keep your knees close together. Hold 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times for each leg.
Stretch your groin, or inner thigh muscles, by sitting on the floor with the soles of your feet pressed together. Grab your ankles and gently pull your legs toward you. Go only as far as is comfortable. Use your elbows to press your knees toward the floor. You should feel the stretch in your inner thighs. Hold your groin stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat it two to four times.
Your hamstring muscles run down the back of your thigh. Stretch them by sitting up straight in a chair with one foot on the floor. Slowly raise the other leg while you keep your knee straight. Support your leg with both of your hands. Hold this for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat two to four times on each leg.
Listen to Your Body
Exercise should challenge you, but it shouldn’t cause pain. If you have some mild muscle soreness after you start a new exercise, that’s normal. But if it lasts more than a couple of days, ease up on your workout to give your body more time to get used to the new routine. If you have any lasting pain, see your doctor.