8 Things You Can Do For Your Joint Health, Starting Today
Why is joint health a key component of full-body wellness?
To answer this question, let’s review what a joint is: A joint is where two or more bones join together. They can be rigid or move with you — like your knees, hips, and shoulders. Healthy joints allow you to run, play sports, dance, and stay active.
An unhealthy joint is most often associated with arthritis. Arthritis results in inflammation will eventually break down the joint. Starting with joint swelling, it can eventually cause a build up of fluid in the joint, bone damage, and even muscle loss (1).
There are many different forms of arthritis, with osteoarthritis being the most common. The cartilage surrounding the joint wears away and makes the bones rub together, causing swelling and stiffness. If left untreated, arthritis can progress to the point where the joint needs to be replaced with knee or hip surgery.
So, how do you prevent it? Below, see six lifestyle changes you can implement today to cut down on inflammation and protect your joints.
6 Easy Changes You Can Make Today To Improve Your Joint Health
Watch Your Waistline
Being told to watch your weight is never a fun topic, but it’s first on this list for two reasons. One, body weight is what causes stress on the joints — particularly the knees, which are called weight-bearing joints. Two, being overweight causes a buildup of inflammation, triggering joint-related issues like osteoarthritis.
When you walk down the street, the force on your knees is 1.5 times your bodyweight. If you weigh 150 pounds, 225 pounds of force is crashing with every step you take, causing knee pain and general wear and tear (2). Maintaining a healthy weight helps combat the excessive force.
The ongoing debate between scientists and psychical therapists is whether it’s strictly weight, or a higher BMI, that puts people at greater risk for joint problems. At one point, doctors thought a 200-pound man with 8 percent body fat was at greater risk of having a knee replaced than a 140-pound woman with 30 percent body fat — strictly due to the sheer force coming down on that knee. However, recent studies show that knee and other joint pain is correlated with a higher BMI, not just a heavier weight (3).
Hit the Weight Room
While both cardio and strength training will help protect your joints, building muscle may be more beneficial than just slimming down. There are over 600 muscles in your body, and many of them help to protect your joints. Remember the 225 pounds of force coming down on that 150-pound person described above? Muscles help absorb, then redistribute, that shock (4).
Strong muscles and strong bones lead to healthy joints. If the muscles surrounding a joint get injured, you are more likely to injure that joint as well (5). Plus, weight training is one of the many low impact activities you can do to preserve your joints, more so than running or interval training. To protect yourself and your joints, a physical therapist will recommend you do a proper warm-up, mix strength training with cardio, and maintain a regular exercise routine.
Go Low Carb
Joint health issues, like arthritis, are essentially inflammation of the joint. But what causes inflammation in the first place?
The list of factors contributing to inflammation is a long one, and your diet is at the top of it. Starches, sugar, and refined carbohydrates are high-inflammatory foods. More and more studies show that excessive carbs — not excessive fats — lead to inflammatory responses (6). Plus, reducing carb intake has been shown to be an excellent strategy for weight management, helping to shed those extra pounds.
How do you go low carb? The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that has been shown to fight inflammation, and is rapidly growing in popularity (7). Check out this post to see how you can get started on keto.
Up the Spice Intake
Love spicy food? New studies show that certain spices act as anti-inflammatories, helping to reduce arthritis symptoms associated with joint pain. Ginger has long been known for its therapeutic properties, and might be helpful in treating arthritic symptoms. In one study, patients were given a mixture of ginger and turmeric, which helped alleviate pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis (8).
Cumin is another spice with anti-inflammatory properties. Just like ginger and turmeric, studies have shown that supplementing with cumin can be used as a natural remedy to treat rheumatoid arthritis (9). To get more of these natural remedies in your diet, consider experimenting with Thai and Indian-style cooking, or try a turmeric latte or milkshake, like this one.
Eat More Salmon
Omega–3 fatty acids are praised for their anti-inflammatory effects, yet most Americans don’t get enough of it. In several studies, supplements high in omega–3 fatty acids, particularly fish oil capsules, decreased symptoms of arthritis pain. Patients said they felt less stiff in the morning after taking the supplement (10).
Fatty fish, like salmon, cod, and mackerel are high omega–3 fatty acids, offering the same benefits as the supplement. In fact, salmon and mackerel offer 4,023 milligrams and 4,107 milligrams of omega–3 fatty acids, respectively. To get more salmon, consider adding this Crispy Skin Salmon recipe to your weekly meal prep.
Reduce Your Stress Level
Changing your diet and making exercise a priority is one thing, but reducing your stress level? That’s not so easy — but it’s necessary component of joint care.
Research shows that chronic stress — whether from work, family, or anxiety — is a silent, but serious contributor to inflammation and other conditions related to joint health (and other aspects of your health). Those with higher levels of stress are shown to have higher levels of joint pain (11). In fact, many patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis say that their symptoms started immediately after a stressful or traumatic life event (12).
There are many practices that can slowly decrease your stress level. Take short breaks from your work day to take a walk outside, turn the computer off in the early evening (not right before you go to sleep), or practice stretching, meditation, or yoga.
Drink Bone Broth
One study found that taking glucosamine and chondroitin is as effective at treating arthritis as the popular prescription drug Celebrex (13). Another study found that consuming glucosamine from cartilage (from which bone broth is made) was more effective at decreasing arthritis symptoms than glucosamine in supplement form (14). Drinking a mug of bone broth daily is an easy, satisfying way to save your joints, and less expensive than supplements.
Aim for a Healthy Lifestyle, Not a Quick Fix
Science shows a healthy diet and exercise are two of the most important contributors to healthy joints. Hit the weightroom, reduce your intake of carbs and sugar, eat more omega-3 fatty acids, and drink bone bone broth to preserve your joints.
Diet and exercise help control inflammation, increase flexibility, and decrease the impact of weight bearing joints — but only if you continue to make them a priority. To ensure your joints last as long as you do, continue to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into your daily routine. If joint pain continues to be an issue, try taking supplements or vitamins to control inflammation.
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