8 Min Read
How to Keep Your Joints Healthy as You Age
As you age, the fluids that lubricate your joints decrease and the cartilage protecting your bones breaks down. Because of this, joints become stiffer and less flexible, causing discomfort. While damage to joints can’t be reversed, taking care of your joints can help reduce pain or discomfort. Take steps to strengthen your muscles, add density back to your bones, and protect your joints.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Your joints are meant to sustain a certain amount of force. If you’re overweight, there is unnecessary pressure and stress being added to your knees, hips, spine, etc. Being just 10 pounds overweight can increase the force on your knees by 30 to 40 pounds.
Being overweight raises your risk of developing osteoarthritis, which causes protective cartilage in the joints to break down. While osteoarthritis can damage any joint, it most commonly affects the hands, knees, hips, and spine. Being overweight can also cause inflammation, which increases the risk of developing arthritis and makes existing arthritis worse. Staying a healthy weight reduces your risk of joint damage.
Try Low-Impact Exercises
High-impact exercises, like running or lifting weights, can put a lot of stress on your joints. This can cause painful wear and tear on cartilage. If you feel pain or discomfort during exercise, try low-impact exercises like walking, aquatic exercise, dancing, or yoga. Grand Oaks offers many low-impact exercise classes for seniors.
Stretch and Warm Up
When exercising or participating in any physical activity, it’s important to stretch and warm up. Cold, stiff muscles can lead to injuries and put your joints at greater risk of strain and overloading. Not to mention, jumping into exercising or physical activity can put extra stress on your heart. An effective warmup should take 10 to 15 minutes, but people with arthritis or a heart condition may need a little more time. Start with light cardio, like taking a short walk. This can loosen your muscles and joints.
Stretching is best after you’ve already warmed up. Seniors should be stretching at least three times per week to enhance balance and flexibility. Stretches like squats, arm circles, shoulder squeezes, and torso rotations can help loosen your muscles and reduce your risk of injury.
Get More Calcium
Aging causes you to be more susceptible to osteoporosis, making your bones weak, brittle, and more likely to fracture. Adding more calcium in your diet can strengthen your bones. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt contain calcium. Dark leafy greens, broccoli, and some fish like salmon also have calcium that is critical for bone strength. If you find it difficult to add calcium into your diet, talk to your doctor about taking calcium supplements.
Load Up on Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium more efficiently. Getting enough of both nutrients is important for making your bones dense and strong. You can get some vitamin D from sunlight, but if you don’t spend much time outside, don’t worry. You can find vitamin D in salmon, canned tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms, milk, and orange juice. Getting enough vitamin D through your diet can be difficult, as people 70 years and older are recommended to get 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day. Taking vitamin D supplements can help get you to your recommended levels. Talk to your doctor first before trying any new medications or supplements.
Use Padding During Physical Activity
Even minor falls can lead to unexpected joint damage in seniors. When you exercise, wear knee and elbow pads. These joints are most susceptible to injury during physical activity. Even low-impact exercises can be dangerous for those with osteoarthritis or other bone diseases. Wearing protective gear can help protect your joints during unanticipated slips or falls.