Tips to Keep Joints Healthy
Whether you have arthritis or not, keeping your joints healthy is vital to maintaining a good quality of life so you can keep moving and doing the things you love. It’s never too early (or late) to improve your joint health, so if you’re looking for some tips you’re in the right place. We spoke to David Vaux, therapies manager and exercise lead at Arthritis Action, and Martin Lau, Arthritis Action’s dietician, to find out more.
“It is normal to sometimes feel a little sore or uncomfortable after exercise, especially if it is something you haven’t done for a while,” says David Vaux, “but it’s important to remember that this does not mean that you are harming your joints. In fact, regular exercise is essential as it helps to strengthen the muscles that protect and support the joints. Exercise has even been proven to help reduce the pain of arthritis and improve function.
“It doesn’t really matter what type of exercise you do but you should try to find a type of exercise which you enjoy and that you are likely to continue. The best exercise is probably one which improves fitness, muscle strength and flexibility at the same time, but any exercise is better than nothing. Even simple vacuuming or doing housework to music or gardening or walking will do.”
Some people find being part of an exercise group (or just going for a regular walk with a friend) can help keep them motivated. There are loads of walking groups, gardening clubs, dance classes and other options to keep active and make some new friends at the same time, so take a look at what’s going on in your local area!
“If your joints are very painful, exercising in water can be a good place to start and many swimming pools have sessions for women only, people with disabilities, or pools where the water is kept warmer at certain times,” says David.
Low-impact Is Best
High impact exercises - like running - can be great cardio, but may seem a bit intense when you have arthritis. “Low impact exercises are good for minimising impact across the surface of a joint, such as the impact of hitting the floor while running or jumping,” says David. “Some good examples might be road or exercise biking, rowing machines, swimming, or a circuit class that focuses on non-jarring movements.
“That’s not to say that high intensity exercise should be strictly avoided for those with arthritis. It just depends on your own level of activity and movement. An individual with arthritis can find ways to take part in great exercise sessions whilst avoiding a specific movement that aggravates their painful joints. Everyone is different, so the best exercises for each person are also different.”
Healthy Weight, Healthy Diet
“Body weight plays a key part in arthritis, especially the three most common types of arthritis; osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout,” says Martin Lau. “Excess weight places additional pressure on weight-bearing joints. A landmark study found one lb of weight-loss lessens four lbs of pressure on the knees, per step. For those with inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, carrying more body weight could reduce the chance of achieving remission.”
If you want to lose a bit of weight, many people find a combination of healthy eating and more exercise helpful. Don’t feel that you have to cut out the foods you like (this can actually be really counterproductive and may lead to overeating in the long term) or stress your body out with a 7-day-a-week exercise regime, but making some small changes can make a big difference. If you’re struggling with your weight, speak to a doctor who will be able to help you work on a weight loss plan. Many people have found drug-free FlexiSEQ takes the edge off their joint pain and allows them to get moving.
“There is no evidence that any dietary supplement such as turmeric or herbal remedies can help joint pains, but they may have a useful placebo effect. Omega-3 fish oils may help some people with inflammatory arthritis,” says Martin.
Fad diets may promise quick results, but they are often unpleasant, hard to maintain and unhealthy. Instead, opt for small, healthy changes that you can sustain without feeling like you’re missing out. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself. Eating a piece of cake or going out to dinner isn’t going to ruin anything, as long as the majority of your diet is varied and healthy.
“No diet can ‘cure’ arthritis, and there are no particular diets or specific types of food that will make arthritis better or worse,” says Martin. “Instead, the aim should primarily be to strive for a normal body weight if you’re carrying more than you should be, and eating a well-balanced, varied diet. Fruit and vegetables contain high levels of vitamins and antioxidants which are essential for staying in good health, not to mention the high fibre content which is helpful for our gut bacteria.”
Get The Right Posture
“Correcting your posture may have the unexpected result of making you feel stronger and more upright,” says David. “Interestingly I’ve also heard anecdotal evidence that improving your posture can decrease your aching. A brilliant unexpected benefit!”
If you’re interested in improving your posture, consider trying some yoga, pilates or simple stretches. Some people really enjoy going to classes, but you can also try watching YouTube videos or downloading an app like Down Dog.
How do you keep your joints healthy? Let us know on Facebook!