While joints don’t possess strength themselves, you can improve joint health and joint stability by exercising and strengthening the muscles that surround the joints. Incorporating regular bouts of exercise helps to prevent bone breaks, maintain healthy range of motion and develop muscular strength, which in turn protects your joints. In addition, consuming certain nutrients can further improve the health of your joints.
Regular Low-Impact Cardio
Incorporate daily cardio workouts to improve bone strength and keep your joints supple. Select cardio activities that force you to hold up your own body weight and yet are low-impact. Walking, swimming, tai chi, dancing and gardening are examples of quality, low-impact exercises. High-impact exercises like running can place a significant amount of stress on your joints and lead to problems. Start by exercising for 10 minutes and gradually increase your workout time by five minutes per week until you’re exercising for at least 30 minutes per day.
Consistent Strength Training
Lifting weights is a low-impact activity that effectively builds bone density and strength in the muscles that control your joints. For example, by strengthening the quadriceps at the front of your thighs and your hamstrings at the back of your thighs, you’re increasing the stability of your knee joints. Fit in two strength training workouts per week on nonconsecutive days. Do two sets of eight to 12 reps of each exercise while using a weight that you can safely control and yet makes each set challenging. Build strength in all the major muscles with leg press, leg curl, row, chest press, shoulder press, crunch and back extension.
Adding Balance Work and Stretching
Improve the stability of your joints by regularly adding balance work to your routine. To target the ankles, knees and hips, for example, stand on one leg while working to maintain your balance. Make it more challenging by closing your eyes. Consistent stretching will keep your muscles limber so that your joints are able to move freely. Stretch one to two times per day, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.
The National Institute of Health recommends that those who are concerned with joint care consume a diet that supports bone health, including foods high in calcium and vitamin D. Women younger than 50 and men younger than 70 need about 1,000 mg of calcium per day. Once women reach 50 and men reach 70, their daily need increases to 1,200 mg. Quality food selections high in calcium include dark, leafy greens like kale, arugula and collared greens, as well as almonds and low fat dairy products. For vitamin D, consume salmon, catfish, tuna and eggs. You can also get vitamin D from sunlight. Men and women under 50 need about 400 to 800 IU daily, while those older than 50 need 800 to 1,000 IU daily. In addition, many foods like breads are fortified with both calcium and vitamin D.