While physical activity is important, one thing we can’t ignore is the havoc it can wreak on our joints.
But most of the time, just a few changes to some of our physical activities or training programs are enough to provide relief and keep our joints healthy….
Low-intensity weight-bearing exercises and light sports activities are perfect for strengthening the muscles that support the joints and keeping them flexible.
When you’re in the water, strenuous movements become easier. The resistance provided by water makes repeated movements easier and strengthens your leg muscles. Combined with other activities, aquafitness (or water gymnastics), helps relieve joint pain, relaxes muscles and gently eliminates muscle tension.
Many movements become much easier when you do them in water, and exercising in water allows you a much wider range of movement. Try fully extending your legs and then bending them at the knees; working against water resistance is an effective way to strengthen your leg muscles. Furthermore, exercising in water improves blood flow, stimulates the heart, circulatory system and respiratory function, boosts metabolism and relaxes muscles.
While people usually dance because it’s fun, it’s actually a good way to keep in shape. By keeping step with the music, you control your movements and reduce tension. Because of the low risk of injury associated with dancing, it’s the perfect activity for people with knee pain or arthritis.
When you walk, many parts of your body come into play. Using hiking poles (one for each arm) helps you keep a steady pace and balance your weight evenly, which helps take the load off your typically over-stressed knee joints. When you use the poles properly, you turn a leisurely stroll into a truly active one.
Hiking helps keep you fit, but it’s preferable to avoid extra loads such as bags or backpacks. Using hiking poles, as you would with Nordic walking, provides extra support to minimize the stress put on your knees. Walking and hiking are two effective alternatives to jogging that will help save your knees. And because you always have one foot on the ground, your joints and spine aren’t subjected to shocks.
Whether a leisurely bike ride or a performance-oriented race, cycling is perhaps the only sport that keeps your knees moving without putting undue stress on them. In fact, when you’re cycling, all your body weight is supported by the bike seat, which means your knees are off the hook. It’s best to pedal at a regular pace without too much resistance.
If you start feeling knee pain, it means you’re pushing too hard. The ideal way to train is on a stationary bike at home. That way, you can determine how much effort to put into it, and adjust the saddle or handlebars to suit your needs. It’s important to adjust the seat height so that when you pedal, you can almost fully extend your leg when the pedal is at its lowest point.
Exercise is a panacea for the body, soul and mind. Sports activities in general help stabilize joints, strengthen muscles and improve coordination, not to mention their mood-enhancing effect.