Body Buzz – Moving Parts
by Sasha Kanal
Often overlooked in an exercise regime, keeping your joints healthy and flexible is a must when it comes to maintaining good health for now and in the future.
Joint health is often something we take for granted – we don’t think about it when we are young, but it creeps up on us as we get older. A lifetime of moving, walking and exercising can all take its toll on our cartilage – the connective tissue that cushions our joints and helps them move easily and more smoothly. As we age, joint movement can become stiffer and considerably less flexible because the amount of lubricating fluid inside our joints decreases and the cartilage becomes thinner. But it’s not all doom and gloom! Whatever our age or fitness levels, we don’t have to take this as a given and blithely accept our bodies’ fates.
In fact research has shown that these particular processes and the impact they have on our physiology can be slowed and in some cases even reversed with physical activity and positive changes in lifestyle.
KEEP ON MOVING!
According to medical professionals and physiotherapists, the golden rule for joint health is the more you move, the less stiff ness you will have. So when doing something sedentary such as sitting at a desk, driving or watching TV, change your position, take breaks from your chair and get up often. As always, there’s no excuse not to exercise – effective low impact aerobic activities for joint health include walking, swimming and cycling as well as less obvious ones such as Tai Chi, rock-climbing and ballroom dancing.
Strength or weight training is highly recommended to help support your joints, as it helps to strengthen the ligaments and muscles surrounding them and can protect them from damage. After the age of 30, humans lose on average 5% of their muscle mass per decade. If you don’t work to maintain this loss, your joint and not your muscle will absorb more of the pounding from daily living.
Maintaining a healthy weight and being a bit lighter can positively affect the strain on your knees and hips. Even just a little weight loss is beneficial and experts say that every pound you lose takes 4 pounds of pressure off your knees.
So if you’d like to get those joints moving, here are some simple exercises you can do at home to get you started.
The Single Leg Balance is an exercise that will help strengthen the muscles that keep your knee stable. Stand with both feet just slightly less than shoulder-width apart. Shift your body weight to one foot but without locking the knee joint. Then raise your opposite leg behind you and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on other leg.
Wrist Circles can improve the range of motion in this area and help alleviate any stiffness. Start with your elbows tucked in at your sides. Make a loose fist with each hand and moving the wrist joint only, circle inwards 15 times and then reverse in the opposite direction. Repeat the sequence two to three times.
Caution: If you are unsure of any new exercise regime please consult your GP before commencing, particularly if you have a chronic joint disease such as arthritis.