Joint Health – How the right kind of exercise benefits your joints

We have all read and been told that exercise is healthy. While I completely agree with this advice I would also like to discuss the importance of joint health in relation to exercise.

Finding a sport or exercise regime that you enjoy is the trick. Fitness shouldn’t be a burden or a chore. Finding that thing that you love, make it a part of your life – it’s never too late to start.

Joint health

There are two reasons for degeneration of the spine. One is lack of movement and the other is having some sort of trauma/injury or accident. Movement of the body is vital to good health. We were designed to move, if you stay stagnant in the one place for many hours at a time your health will eventually deteriorate.

You don’t want to overwork any system and it’s very important to give it rest.  Resting rejuvenates and restores the tissues in the body.  I recommend working out 3 days and resting on the fourth day.

The exercises that move practically every muscle in our bodies are swimming and tennis. If you are in your mid 40s or older I don’t recommend swimming as the primary exercise. When you swim you are buoyant in the water and therefore not building bone mass. You need to combine it with an exercise with gravity in order to build healthier bones.

Joint Health - How the right kind of exercise benefits your joints

Joint health is important to understand so as to avoid injury. To get a better understanding of this area of the body, imagine two bones coming together and not touching.  At the end of the two bones is cartilage which acts like a padding helping the joint to move smoothly and easily. A membrane called the synovium produces a thick fluid (synovial fluid) that helps keep the cartilage healthy As cartilage deteriorates, adjacent bones may no longer have sufficient lubrication from the synovial fluid and cushioning from the cartilage. This can cause the bones to rub against each other causing a problem called degeneration.

What keep the joints together are the ligaments. Ligaments are filled with receptors that come from the brain that tells the body what is happening with that joint. If you move your wrist joint, your brain knows exactly where it is because the ligaments send a message up the nerves to your brain to tell you what position it is in.

Have you ever had a sprained ankle? This is damage within the ligaments. In order to let that sprain to heal, you would need to rebuild the receptors in the ligaments. This can be done by using a wobble board. If the ligament does not heal then the re-injury can reoccur. The healing needs to happen in good alignment so that sensation and feedback is normal.

Avoid processed food because it increases the acidity of the body. Items that have excess acid are alcohol and caffeine. However, you don’t want to avoid acidic foods completely because it helps with digestion, metabolising food and building protein.

Ideally you want a diet that is 30% acid and 70% alkaline. You can decrease the acidity of the body by taking chlorella, spirulina or wheat grass.

A great recommendation is to have lemon juice or have a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with water in the morning. Both are acidic but it’s this acidity that enables digestion and absorption of nutrients more efficiently. This helps people become more alkaline as the overall effect.

I also recommend taking HCl supplements to boost the digestion power. I don’t talk much about supplementation because you should get it from your food first.

Some items to think about are collagen synthesis items in powder form. For those in their 20’s with joint pain, try adding essential fatty acids. It’s probably a deficiency of omega 3 in the blood stream. Eat oily fish or supplement with fish oils in the liquid form and not the capsule. A teaspoon is recommended.

If you are carrying excess weight an interesting idea to think about is; For each additional 1kg of weight that is carried that puts 4kg of extra pressure on that joint. I am referring to the compressive load. So if you are carrying an extra 10kg’s, then that is 40kg’s of compressive load on that joint. Losing some weight is vital and important to your health.

Movement is important for joint health. If you immobilise an area of the body then that’s when it starts to dysfunction. If the spine isn’t moving properly then it takes about 2 weeks for degeneration to occur, causing long term damage. That’s a bit scary to know.

As Chiropractors we are always talking about proper alignment within the joint. If your car isn’t properly aligned chances are your car will begin to deteriorate. Perhaps you should start treating your body like your car!

It’s important to always move the spine and a great way to move it is with a foam roller. It doesn’t have to move a lot, just a slight motion will stimulate the joint receptors.

For optimal joint health all your joints need excerising. For example, runners may not get enough movement in the upper body. Another example is weight lifters – they need to combine stretching and flexibility work in their training to get enough movement in their spine.

It’s best to combine exercises so that different joints are moving. You want to stimulate the joints by challenging them to become healthier and stronger. The key to bone health is stressing and challenging them. That is what stimulates them to grow stronger, healthier and keep moving.

The best recommendation I have heard is to do one strength training exercise and one for flexibility and alternate between the two for maximum results.

To get maximum benefit you would need to vary your exercise. For example, varying your exercise with cardio (running, brisk walking, swimming) with strength training for maximum results.

It is vitally important to hydrate the joints. The best way is with water. Not alcohol, not a soft drink, nor coffee or juice. It will not do the same job – it just won’t.

I am not a fan of anti-inflammtories. One reason being is that if there is an inflamed or swollen joint the immune system has a natural innate response that must occur in order for repair to occur. The immune’s response is to get rid of the problem which is why you see a swelling. We stop that in mid cycle by taking anti inflammatories which is bad for the joints. Let the immune system do its job with the inflammatory cascade response. The drug will not only affect that specific area, but it affects all the systems of the whole body. It can in fact lead to heart attacks. Did you know that Vioxx, which is an anti-inflammatory drug was taken off the market after 60,000 people died?

If you have an acute sore area, then use ice to reduce inflammatory response. If however you want to get moving then heat is required to get that stiffness out, get blood flowing and allow you to move with more ease. I recommend heat for more chronic cases.

So get up and get moving to improve your joint health today. Sitting really is ruining your health. Just type in “sitting is the new smoking” and you will see lots of articles written about this topic. It is one of the worst postures for the body.


About the author

Dr. Benjamin Martin is a Chiropractor and speaker on Health and Wellbeing. Ben is regularly called on to discuss health topics and chiropractic on radio, tv and press. His promise is to adjust and educate as many families as possible towards optimal health. His work changes lives and has restored people's quality of life.

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