by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director
Joints are located throughout your body and play a key role in your mobility and overall well-being. While a variety of factors can affect your joints, such as injuries, inflammation, muscle atrophy, and overuse, there are things that you can do to protect your joints and prevent degeneration. The following lifestyle, diet, and supplement recommendations could help keep your joints healthy for as long as possible.
Do daily physical activity. Movement increases the circulation of synovial fluid (a liquid that protects and lubricates joints) and nutrients through joints and strengthens bones and muscles—which, in turn, protects your joints. It is best to include stretching and strengthening in your exercise routine.
Maintain good posture. Sitting with a straight spine while in front of a computer screen or driving, using an ergonomic chair, wearing flat shoes rather than high heels, and carrying your book bag or purse with the weight balanced equally on each shoulder can go a long way in protecting your joints. Poor posture can misalign your bones and put unnecessary strain on your joints.
Manage your weight. Just 10 pounds of extra body weight can increase the force on your knee by 30-60 pounds with every step you take. Shedding extra pounds through exercise and a healthy diet can not only prevent future knee problems—it can also help reduce pain if osteoarthritis has already developed in your knees.
Exercise safely. While staying active is important, it is possible to push your body too much. Moderate your activity levels. Whether you are stretching in a yoga class or training for a marathon, be sure to always warm up before exerting yourself, practice safe alignment, and listen to your body. If your joints are painful, they’re telling you something!
Sleep deeply. Falling into a deep, relaxed sleep for at least seven to eight hours each night can allow your body to more fully repair itself, including your joints. Before going to bed, practice stress management techniques, such as deep breathing or warm baths, to help your body slip into a more relaxed state.
Inflammation is a huge contributor to joint problems, and fortunately there are several dietary strategies that can help reduce inflammation systemically.
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on fresh, whole foods, including a lot of green leafy vegetables. Load up on your alliums—garlic, onions, and leeks—because they contain bioactive compounds that can help protect against osteoarthritis. Cherries are also highly anti-inflammatory.
Avoid inflammatory foods. These include foods that are processed and contain and artificial additives, sugar, and alcohol. Work with your doctor to determine food allergens, such as gluten, which may be contributing to inflammation.
Drink enough water. Water helps to lubricate your joints. Aim to drink at minimum eight glasses of water—preferably filtered or purified—each day.
There are a few supplements on the market that can help lower inflammation and protect your joints. Always check with your doctor before beginning a new supplement. Helpful supplements include:
- Boswellia Serrata. This anti-inflammatory tree extract has historically been used for prevention and treatment of arthritis.
- Willow bark. This tree extract can decrease pain from osteoarthritis.
- Vitamin C. This vitamin can help prevent arthritis when taken within the, key word, recommended daily allowance. Too much can harm your joints!
- Vitamin D. According to researchers, vitamin D may help lower your risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Curcumin. An extract from turmeric, curcumin has high anti-inflammatory properties.
- Glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM. These agents can be taken in supplement form individually or in combination, and can have a positive effect on overall joint health.