How to Keep Joints Healthy

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With the snow melting and the weather warming, it’s about that time we all are getting outside for some fresh air and exercise! Unfortunately, one of the first areas where this optimism can come crashing down is when we get injured. Often times, this is from some sort of joint injury.

Our joints are the bridge between bones and muscles, and if we don’t take care of them, they often are the first area to start to hurt when we are hitting the pavement, court, or course too hard.

That being said, there are many awesome ways to protect our joints and ensure that we enjoy a long and healthy spring and summer for many years to come. Before we even talk about warming up, exercising, or extra support, we need to address the issues from within. Our nutrition is the fuel that our bodies run on, and if we aren’t putting the right fuel in our body, how can we expect all the motors, pistons and gears to run smoothly?

The first MAJOR nutrient is something that we all need. Our bodies are made up of 65-75% of it…and that is water. Our tendons, ligaments and cartilage serve as pads and structural support around our joints and they need to be well lubricated. Make sure you are drinking enough water at all times. But how much is enough? (8) 8oz glasses? Half your bodyweight in ounces?

I like to make it less complex – and the science supports this. Use the color of your urine as an indicator. If it is yellow or darker, you need more water. If it is straw colored, you are good. If it is crystal clear, you might be overhydrated. Being overhydrated isn’t the worst thing, but you may find yourself using the restroom more than you wish and it could potentially lead to an electrolyte imbalance.

As far as foods go, I’ll keep this basic. The best diet for your joint and overall body health is going to be one that provides you with balance from mostly whole foods. If it grew from the ground, walked on land, swam in the water, or flew in the sky – it’s going to be healthy for you in its purest form. By purest form I mean there is a huge difference between a pork tenderloin and a pork brat. Tenderloin is just that. A brat has a ton of extra fillers in it, more heart-clogging fats, and who knows what else.

Most people know what they should be eating more of, but the problem lies in doing it. This all starts with habit formation and action. You need to buy the foods that you know you need to eat so they are readily available, and keep the problem foods out of the house. I personally don’t like having any junk food in the house because it can be my downfall. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy myself when we go out – but the number of times we go out is much less than the number of meals I eat at home.

Once you buy more fruits, veggies, and other quality foods, make them easily accessible. Have a fruit bowl out on the counter. Have the veggies chopped up and ready to go. Make it as easy as possible to succeed! If you don’t want to totally remove the junk from your home, at least make it harder to access. Put it deep in the pantry, high on a shelf. A couple extra layers of work can go a long way.

We want to keep our diets low in inflammatory foods. What are these? Added sugars, processed plant oils, and chemical based laboratory oils like trans fats. To keep this simple, think of all the junk foods that come in a bag, box, or wrapper… 99% of the time, these foods will fall into this category.

For overall warm ups, the key is to start slow, mobilize the muscles, minimize the high impact, and know when to rest. Listening to your body will be the most beneficial thing you can do. As far as exercise goes, you may feel some soreness here and there, but it should be in your muscles and not your joints. If you are feeling pain in your joints, there are a few things to assess. Does you form look right? See a personal trainer or running coach to find out! Is your equipment right – shoes, braces, support, etc.?

Are you taking enough rest, and appropriately warming up?

All things that can be assessed by working with a professional. If you are passionate about your fitness and health (everyone should be) you should at least meet with a professional at some point to get an assessment done on what you are trying to do – lifting, running, playing a sport, etc.

If your joint aches and pains continue, you should consider a little extra support in that area. The most common areas I see this happening are the foot, ankle and knee. The proper support can make a world of difference and allow you to keep on doing what you love.

Remember, our health starts from within. What you put in your body makes or breaks everything else. You can’t run a high performance sports car on low quality fuel, and you can’t run your body on junk.