Exercise is an important part of a balanced life, but some exercises can wreak havoc on your joints if performed too often. Even if you have a joint condition, like arthritis, exercise is important for optimum joint health.
When exercising, you want to perform activities that have a low impact on your joints. These could include swimming, walking, biking or using an elliptical machine.
However, this doesn’t mean that weight training is out of the question. Part protecting your joints from injury is strengthening the muscles around your joints. How you do that will depend on your own abilities.
Protecting Your Joints
To best protect your joints, start slowly and don’t overdo it. Increasing your activity level too quickly could overwork your muscles and joints, leading to pain. Start with lighter exercises and increase the intensity as your body becomes used to the exercise.
Before jumping into the bulk of your workout, you should warm up your joints and muscles by performing range-of-motion exercises for 5-10 minutes. Once you’re warmed up, you can continue to strength training or aerobic exercises.
If you feel sharp joint pain during your workout, you should take a break immediately. It could be an indication that something is wrong. You should also stop if you notice joint swelling or redness. Applying ice for 20 minutes after the exercise could decrease the swelling.
The most important part is to trust your instincts. Don’t push yourself too hard if your joints can’t handle it. Working with a fitness professional or physical therapist could put you in the optimal position for increasing your activity at a safe, monitored level.
What to Avoid
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is exercising with improper form. For example, you should adjust workout equipment before using it. Lining everything up correctly ensures proper range of motion that keeps your joints safe.
You should also minimize the number of high-impact exercises you do. For example, running and heavy lifting puts more strain on your joints than swimming or biking would.
It’s a common misconception that exercise itself leads you to be in better shape. Recovery is arguably just as important. It prevents overuse injuries, joint inflammation and gives your body time to repair tissues that were damaged during your workouts. That damage is why you’ll feel sore after being especially active. A good rule of thumb is to rest for 1-2 days every week.