Maintaining Healthy Joints

Does anyone else feel like I’ve been talking about joints forever?  The saddest part is that still, no one has gotten high.  Maybe I can at least blame my increased appetite on this topic.  In true college style, I have raided my pantry just about every day this week.  I think the real culprit for my bingeing and laziness is the weather.  In the words of Milli Vanilli, blame it on the rain.  You may remember I was on a health kick several weeks ago and I felt great.  I had energy, my clothes fit and my arms were slightly less jiggly.  I was preachy and self-righteous – telling everyone what to do.  Well, serves me right.  All of that has been washed down the sewers with the puddles.  I am back to square one. This reinforces something I know, something I do try to follow.  You can’t exercise and eat right for a physical end result – you’ll break the yo-yo.  You have to live healthy for life, for longevity, for sanity.  Yes, I am preaching again, but this time from the pews.

There is little you can do to protect against diseases that affect the joints.  But, there is much that can be done to limit the potential effects of osteoarthritis and to prevent injury.

How to keep your joints healthy in case you live as long as my grandparents:

1.  Eat right – This will work for your joints in two ways.  Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to prevent damage to your joints.  Your weight-bearing joints (knees, hips and back) can only take so much pressure.  Getting an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D in your diet will protect your bones, reducing the risk of injury and fracture.  Antioxidants like vitamin C have shown to be beneficial to joints.  Increase fruit and vegetable intake.

2. Posture – I had a very scary 7th grade teacher.  She was a nun with a ruler and she knew how to use it.  Every so often, she would screech, “Posture” (pronounced paaaa – Shta) and bang her ruler on the desk.  Thirty uniformed girls and boys would instantly throw their shoulders back and sit up straight.  I could use a little of that every day.  Feel free to shout at me on the street if you see me slouching.  Good posture protects your neck, back, hips and knees.  Sister Rita was on to something.

3.  Build your muscles – Remember that the joint is made up of many parts.  Performing exercises that strengthen your muscles.  Strong muscles better support joints so they don’t have to take the brunt of all your weight and movement.

4. Stretch your tendons and ligaments – Exercises like yoga will loosen the connective structures of your joints, increasing flexibility and decreasing risk of sprain or strain.

5. Improve your core – I did a pilates class this morning.  I was absolutely pathetic but the instructor, luckily, was kind.  It is safe to say that I have no core left from the ravages of pregnancy.  The twins are mostly to blame.  I may not feed them today just to get even.  A strong core will improve balance and prevent injury.

In terms of preventing injury, it is important to know your limitations and to not push yourself too hard.  While this has never been a problem for me, you may be more of a go-getter.  Stretching joints past their limits, running until you may pass out, lifting more than you are ready for, are all recipes for joint disaster.  Joint injury puts you at risk for early arthritis, which will curb your workout routine more than using common sense will.  Be smart and take care of all these wonderful parts that allow you to walk, dance, type, lift, carry, climb, reach, etc. — you get the idea.

This has been one of my favorite preventative topics.  Notice, nowhere did it say to limit your wine intake.  What a breath of fresh air!

Have a wonderful weekend!

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