As humans, we like to move, and our joints make it possible for us to do so. Sitting up, laying down, walking, running, jumping, swimming … no matter what it is you’re moving, you are most certainly moving at least one of your joints.
The way we utilize and take care of our joints through diet and exercise is vital to our quality of life. Even then, we still may face the possibility of arthritis (a term that encompasses over 100 ailments that cause joint inflammation). The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, which is part of the National Institute of Health (NIH) estimated in a 2018 study estimated that about 91 million U.S. adults may have some form of arthritis.
That may sound daunting, but with proper care, joint pain can be staved off managed with a healthy regimen. Even those with chronic, hereditary or autoimmune (rheumatoid) joint pain will find that proper lifestyle and diet habits can help them lessen their symptoms and live more a more mobile life! Whether you deal with arthritis already or would just like to maintain quality joint health, the following tips and habits will have you moving more than you did before!
Eating for Mobility
As with maintenance of any part of your health, diet is one of the most important factors. Our joints rely on a variety of nutrients to function optimally in a variety of ways: calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, Folic Acid and omeg-3 fatty acids are nutrients to especially keep in mind.
Foods like kale, broccoli, yogurt and soybeans provide the calcium and others like fatty fish and egg yolks provide the vitamin D necessary for strong, healthy bones. Vitamin D can be tough to get enough from food, although 10 minutes of sunlight without sunscreen can provide a healthy dose without overexposing your skin.
Making sure to get enough protein will help strengthen your muscles which helps keep unnecessary pressure off joints. Meat, eggs, milk, yogurt, oats, quinoa nuts, seeds and legumes all contain substantial amounts of protein. Most Americans get enough protein through their diet, although occasional supplementation is needed—your doctor can help you determine if you are getting enough.
Omega-3 fatty acids have not only shown to help reduce inflammation in joints, they are important to the function of nearly every function in your body. Why? Because they are a necessary component of the membranes that surround every cell in your body! There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids to be aware of: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found most commonly in plant oils such as canola oil, algal oil and soybean oil; nuts and seeds like flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds; and leafy vegetables such as brussels sprouts, kale and spinach. For DHA and EPA, fatty fish and seafood like salmon, mackerel, cod and anchovies contain the highest amounts, although algal oil (from algae) has very high amounts, as well. Your body also has the ability to convert ALA to DHA & EPA, although it is a slow process.
Making sure to get enough vitamin C from foods like citrus, peppers, blackcurrants, thyme and many other fruits and vegetables will also help stave off and reduce inflammation associated with joint pain. Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, cayenne and black pepper not only add delightful flavor to your dishes, they also pack powerful natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Extra virgin olive oil is another powerhouse against inflammation thanks to oleocanthal, which blocks inflammation and has been found to reduce risk of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis or not, a diet rich in the right nutrients will help you maintain and improve joint health and function—plus, they are found in some of the most delicious types of food! If you’re unsure about your diet and are thinking about adding supplements, be sure to first consult your physician.
The recommendations may differ, but agencies related to health and nutrition in the U.S. and abroad set a standard for drinking enough water because hydration is crucial to the functioning of, not just our joints, but our entire body. The National Academies Health and Medicine Divisions Food and Nutrition Board recommends approximately 91 ounces per day for women and 125 ounces for men.
Why is staying hydrated so particularly important to joint health? Our joints are made of cartilage, which is made of approximately 60% water. This wear-resistant cartilage is fed synovial fluid by the body which keeps it lubricated, which creates the pain free movement of your joint. Drinking more water increases synovial fluid production, keeping the joint properly hydrated.
If this cartilage becomes too dry due to dehydration, it loses the wear-resistant properties and creates more friction, inflaming or deteriorating the joint. Keeping properly hydrated is vital to joint health, so ditch that soda or extra cup of coffee in favor of cool, crisp and clear refreshing glass of purifying water!
Incorporate More Movement
Without enough movement, our joints become stiff and the onset of arthritis becomes more likely. In conjunction with a proper diet, the right exercise can strengthen muscles around joints, maintain bone strength, improve balance and quality of life, and provide you with energy to power through each day. Proper exercise and movement is key to maintaining proper joint function, but what types of exercise are best for longevity?
First things first—be sure to warm up. Studies suggest that a five-minute warmup and cooldown before stretching and exercising more vigorously will help your joints prepare for the task ahead. Jumping immediately into exercise increases the impact of exercise on joints, and deprives the body of the temperature increase it desires to truly function optimally.
Range-of-motion and stretching exercises are excellent for keeping you limber feeling more capable. Both range-of-motion and stretching build up the use capacity of your joints and enable you to complete daily tasks with less wear-and-tear. At Southgate at Shrewsbury, we aim to make sure our residents have access to the proper health benefits of exercise by providing classes such as yoga, excellent facilities and personal trainers.
Incorporating moderate strengthening exercises as part of a fitness plan tailored to your goals and fitness level can help keep the muscles around your joints strong, which lessens the pressure on your joints. It’s important to cycle the muscles you work during strength training to avoid overuse, and ample rest is also crucial.
Low-impact aerobic activities such as bicycling and swimming are also great for your joints. These exercises not only build muscle in key areas surrounding joints, but studies also suggest they can convey cardiovascular benefits that increase blood flow and can reduce recovery time. If you work up to 30-45 minutes of aerobic exercise every day, you’ll not only help stave off future joint pain, but you can also help lessen current joint pains. Just be sure that the exercise plan is tailored to your specific situation and be sure to ask your doctor if you have any questions. If you’re interested in getting started, try one of the fitness classes at our indoor pool for the perfect introduction to low-impact exercise.
Taking care of our joints is imperative throughout our entire lives, but becomes more apparent as we age. If we take care of our joints, we can expect a healthier and overall better quality of life, and lessen the impact of pain
brought on by both natural wear-and-tear and arthritis. So eat well, drink ample water and find fun exercises you can enjoy each week.