In our never-ending quest to stay healthy (or get healthier), to lose weight, to get stronger, to become faster, to improve our endurance or to just overall enhance our appearance, it's easy to get lost in the big picture and take for granted our body's mechanisms and the parts that play a supporting role. Our joints, for instance. Be honest: how often do you think about your wrists, your hips, your knees, or your ankles – until you injure one of them and suddenly find yourself pretty much out of commission? Joints need our love, too. They need to be at or near the top of the list of considerations when we are planning our diets or fine-tuning a workout regimen. There is no getting around the importance that our joints play in our everyday existence. They're practically everywhere in every part of our body, involved in almost any movement conceivable. Per webmd.com, a joint is the connection between two bones that, together with surrounding structures, allows us to bend our elbows, wiggle our hips or even just wave our fingers good-bye to a friend headed home or wherever. If our joints are injured or inflamed, much of what we do comes to a halt.
Injured Joint a Wakeup CallIt can be a shock to any of us when we suffer a broken wrist or ankle, or find our knees wracked in pain because of severe inflammation – any of which can put a huge crimp in our everyday activities. Joint health also is at the mercy of factors such as aging and obesity, whereby excessive wear and tear on the cartilage supporting our joints can lead to arthritis. Preventative care is paramount when it comes to our joints so as to reduce the risk of injury or early onslaughts of arthritis. A healthy diet focused on the right kinds of food and nutritional supplements is necessary, as is an exercise program designed to strengthen not only our joints but also the muscles, ligaments, and bones around them.
More Exercise for Healthy JointsLiving a sedentary lifestyle might sound like a safe way to protect your joints – you know, save them from wear and tear and don't expose them to unnecessary risk of injury? Bite your tongue. Better yet, grab some weights and seek some workout counsel from your doctor or a personal trainer. Weight training with strict adherence to proper techniques and the right amount of weights can help build muscle and keep ligaments strong, which are essential for supporting joints. A good place to focus on is with your body's core – namely, your chest, back and abdomen. A stronger core helps you with your balance and minimizes the chances of bad or awkward falls that can damage joints. If your joints are sore after a workout – this isn't uncommon in the early going of a new regimen – try icing down the affected joints to relieve pain and swelling.
Nourish Joints with Good NutritionThe other side of the joint-health equation is diet, to include food as well as nutritional supplements. Here is a list that offers a good starting point to eating right for the sake of joint health (building stronger muscles and bones). Stick to the plan, and you will be a better-oiled machine:
- Vitamin C/Orange juice. Recent research, per arthritis.org, says vitamin C and other antioxidants are effective in diminishing chances of developing osteoarthritis.
- Glucosamine. A supplement made from the shells of crabs, lobsters and shrimp, glucosamine can lessen the pain and inflammation of stiff joints.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. These pop up on a lot of healthy-food recommendations for an assortment of health concerns. These are known to cut down on joint pain and reduce inflammation that has flared up.
- Low-fat milk. Or fat-free milk, too. Per health.com, a study done at a Boston women's hospital found that the more of this type of milk women patients drank, the slower their development of osteoarthritis in the knees.
- Wine. Now we're talking. A study in Europe found that adults who drank four to six glasses a week were less likely to get osteoarthritis in the knee.
- Virgin olive oil. Also per health.com, one of virgin olive oil's compounds can help cut down on the levels of inflammatory enzymes in the body.
- Calcium and Vitamin D. They are mentioned together, per drweil.com, because they are known to work in tandem in supporting strong bones. Calcium is the key component of bones, and vitamin D pays a major role in our bones' absorption of calcium.
- Fruits and vegetables. Hard to go wrong here. Work toward an assortment of colors – arthritis.org suggests soybeans, cherries, broccoli, oranges (again) and garlic. Cauliflower also gets a mention on some lists.