The Way to Save Your Joints is to Use Them

I have recently been told, by more than one person, that they do not want to exercise for fear of wearing out their joints. It’s not that they want to just moderate their activity they simply don’t want to do it at all. They want to “save their joints”. Well to me that is crazy talk. What are they saving them for if not to use them for activity. There is much more to be gained by exercising than there is to lose. Certainly, due to the natural aging process, things in the body do change and perhaps we can’t do what we once did with the same amount of intensity but giving it up all together, in my opinion, should not be an option. Listen to your body. If it hurts, don’t do it. Pace yourself. You are your own exercise control board. Engage the core muscles. Relax your shoulders. Maintain good technique throughout the workout. These are phrases used over and over by personal trainers and fitness instructors. We don’t just talk to avoid “dead air” during a class, ok some of us do, but we really do want you to listen to the cues and take action. We want this so you can continue to benefit your health and well being by continuing to exercise safely on a regular basis.

One person, not that much older than me, said she wasn’t walking any more because she wanted to save her knees. I feel she is much too young to sit down and do nothing active, no health benefits to that.  I have other folks, in their 80’s and 90’s who tell me they go to the gym regularly because it does more for them than any anti-depressant pill ever could. Many people I know would not be doing what they are capable of in the gym or at home if they didn’t exercise on a regular basis. Think arthritis for example. Everyone will develop arthritis eventually. Some feel the symptoms sooner than others, Some not at all. Injury and surgery in a joint will bring arthritis on earlier. Some high impact activities may do as well. If your usual high impact activity is causing you joint pain then switch to something less jarring. Cycling is the new running don’t you know?   The joints need synovial fluid moving through them to keep cartilage healthy and the joints running smoothly. Moving the body gets this fluid flowing. Choose an activity like cycling, swimming or yoga that allows movement without impact.

Activity also strengthens the muscles around the joints. The stronger the muscle the less stress on the joints. This is especially true for the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles in connection to the knees but also having strong core muscles will protect the spine. Engaging those core muscles while twisting or lifting will help prevent back pain. Keeping the upper body strong benefits the shoulders as well as the back. Strength training with weights or even just your own body weight can greatly enhance your joints. If you are unsure of what exercises and activities you should do to benefit your joints seek the advice of a physiotherapist, chiropractor or personal trainer to get you on the right track. Not only does exercise strengthen muscle, it helps you maintain a healthy weight. Less weight on the joints, especially knees, reduces a lot of stress on them and the resulting pain. Keeping flexibility around the joint as much as possible is also beneficial. A regular stretching program is a must.

Please don’t sit down and forgo exercise. Your body and your brain will go to mush. There are so many health benefits to be gained by exercising by anyone of any age that it must be part of your daily routine. The way to save your joints is to use them. Strengthen the muscles surrounding them. Keep them flexible. Exercise smartly. Keep fit and enjoy life!

Holly Vanderzwet, B.P.E.

Fitness Corner and Fitness Corner South