9 Ways to Keep Your Joints Healthy

Keep Moving to Maintain or Improve Joint Health

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Many people with arthritis resist regular physical activity or exercise because they fear it will increase pain or further damage their joints. The body is supposed to move; our joints allow for movement. In fact, movement eases joint stiffness, reduces joint pain, strengthens the muscles which surround the joints, and help us maintain a healthy weight. The benefits are real, so keep moving!

Joint Protection Is Important for Optimal Joint Health

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It is important for everyone, especially people with arthritis, to protect their joints. The goal of joint protection principles is to decrease pain and to reduce the stress or burden placed on the joints. This can be accomplished in several ways:

  • Pay attention to pain signals
  • Avoid activities that stress joints or increase pain
  • Pay attention to proper body mechanics
  • Balance activity and rest; don't overdo activities
  • Check out available assistive devices or mobility aids
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Maintaining Your Ideal Weight Is Important for Joint Health

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With regard to optimal joint health, it is necessary for us to maintain our ideal body weight. Carrying excess body weight adds stress to our joints, especially the weight-bearing joints. For each pound that we lose, there is a 4-fold reduction in loading forces on the knee when a step is taken, according to Messier, et al.


Weight loss reduces knee-joint loads in overweight and obese older adults with knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis and Rheumatism. July 2005. Messier et al. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/art.21139/abstract

Low-Impact Exercise Is Beneficial for Your Joints

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The desired benefits of regular physical activity and exercise can be achieved with low-impact exercise -- a gentler type of exercise that minimizes the stress put on joints during high intensity workouts. For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, "Examples of low-impact aerobic exercises that are easier on your joints include walking, riding a bike and swimming. Try to work your way up to 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week. You can split up that time into 10-minute blocks if that's easier on your joints."


Exercise Helps Ease Arthritis Pain and Stiffness. Mayo Clinic. February 14, 2013. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047971

Strengthening Muscles Around Joints Improves Joint Health

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The muscles that support our joints must be kept as strong as possible. You can work on maintaining or improving your muscle strength by doing strengthening exercises. Weight training is often used as part of a strengthening regimen. Be careful to pace your workouts and not overdo. With proper strength training, you will increase the stability of your joints, while decreasing pain.

Range-of-Motion Exercises Enhance Flexibility and Mobility

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Arthritis is characteristically associated with limited range of motion. To preserve your current range of motion or improve it, you should routinely put each joint through its full range of motion. Extend, bend, or rotate each of your joints. Range-of-motion exercise improves flexibility, relieves stiffness and pain, and helps us to keep our joints functional. 

An Inflammatory Diet May Be Beneficial for Joint Health

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Reducing inflammation is part of keeping arthritis symptoms under control and improving overall joint health. An anti-inflammatory diet involves avoiding foods that increase inflammation while including more foods that decrease inflammation.  Many sources suggest that a Mediterranean diet is a good choice for keeping inflammation under control.

Vitamin D and Calcium Are Important for Joint Health

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Vitamin D and calcium are two nutrients that are required for healthy bones. Vitamin D is actually needed for calcium absorption. You can obtain vitamin D through sun exposure, diet, or supplementation. Many people need some supplementation. Your doctor can order a blood test to determine if you are deficient in vitamin D. Low calcium is associated with decreased bone density and increased fracture risk. 

Stop Smoking to Improve Bone and Joint Health

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According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Society, "Most people are not aware that smoking has a serious negative effect on your bones and joints." Specifically, smoking increases the risk of osteoporosis and fracture. Smoking also increases the likelihood of injuries involving bursitis or tendonitis. Smokers also have a higher risk of low back pain and rheumatoid arthritis. Stop smoking to improve bone health and joint health.


Smoking and Musculoskeletal Health. OrthoInfo. May 2010. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00192.

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