Your joints are the dream hinges that enable you to move and groove your body. That dream can become a nightmare when your joints become stiff and ache, and every movement becomes excruciating. Rising from a chair can make you panic. Standing at the top of a staircase can make you cringe in anticipation. Opening a jar or a childproof medicine bottle might become an impossible task. It’s a frustrating and discouraging way to live.
But it’s not necessarily a life sentence. There are steps you can take to turn those joints from an achy mess to a thriving joy. It helps to understand what’s happening, so you can address the problems. You see, there are several types of joints, such as fibrous and cartilaginous. These are immobile except for the spine that has some range of motion. And synovial joints, which is what concerns us today.
Fighting Bad Instincts
Synovial joints are fluid-filled within a fibrous capsule and are sub-classified into their range of motion type. For example, hinge joints move on one plane, such as elbows, ankles, fingers, and knees. It’s these joints that are used most often and cause grief. The thing is, when movement triggers that painful shock and travels like lightning through your body, your first instinct is to freeze and stop moving. You just want to sit or lie down quietly to subside the pain.
But that’s the worst thing you can do!
3 Ways Exercise HELPS Your Joints
Synovial joints are surrounded by a membrane that produces a clear, sticky lubricating fluid that allows your bones to glide over one another smoothly. Physical movements help the fluid to circulate within this capsule.
- Exercise increases blood flow as your heart pumps, bringing nourishment with it. As weight bears down on your joints, it forces water out (like squeezing a sponge), says Dr. John Hardin, MD, a professor of medicine and orthopedic surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.1 As you remove the weight, the water returns from your bloodstream, carrying these nutrients and oxygen with it to feed your joint.
- Researchers are still investigating, but their findings suggest that exercise activates genes associated with rebuilding cartilage. Exercise also triggers the removal of cellular waste and dead tissue, a process called autophagy. “It’s basically like taking out the trash,” explains Dr. Hardin.
- Exercise strengthens muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support the joints like a protective brace and reduces the pressure on weaker joints. It helps keep your bones strong and improves your balance, avoiding falls and broken bones. Exercise also helps manage your weight, which can cause a greater burden on your joints.2
Low Impact Exercises
You don’t have to join an expensive gym either; daily movements in the comfort of your home can be just as beneficial. The Mayo Clinic recommends stationary, recumbent bicycles, or elliptical trainers.3 There are mechanical power bicycles or electric bicycles that can assist you in riding uphill. They take the pressure off your knees and still gives you the exercise you need, and it’s fun.
Try to work up to 150 minutes a week of low to moderate impact exercises. Split the time into 10-minute blocks if that’s easier but start slow and build it up gradually. Your joints will breathe a sigh of relief from the influx of vital nourishment, and your body will help rebuild your joints. Before you know it, you’ll be dancing and kicking your heels up in joyous freedom!