How Exercise Affects Your Joints: Which Should be Avoided and Which Are Good for You?
We need to be physically active in order to maintain good health and stay fit, supporting not only our body but also our brain. The absolute minimum is 120-150 minutes of light exercise per week, and the majority of doctors recommend combining light aerobic exercise with moderate strength training. Exercises develop your muscles, improve blood circulation, increase the production of happiness hormones. Is the exercise that cure-all? Alas, if only it were that simple.
There is a minimum one component of our body that cannot be so happy of regular exercise, which is our joints. Unfortunately, exercises or just a considerable strain can significantly increase the risks of joint disorders.
Joints and Physical Activity: Benefits and Drawbacks
When we do feasible physical exercises, we are not only building up muscles. During physical activity, our body develops an additional “portion” of cartilaginous tissue, which is good for the joints. That is why even those who have problems with their joints are recommended to continue the physical exercise. Besides, several reports, including “Running as a Key Lifestyle Medicine for Longevity”, confirm that we observe safety rules, the joints (including knee joints) of those who do exercises do not deteriorate and are even better than in those who shy away from exercise and workout. The thing is that the joints are not “connected” to the arteries and blood vessels and receive nutrients from the cartilaginous tissue. Imagine that you want to wet a sponge: as soon as you strain a joint, the liquid from the cartilage is squeezed out, but when we relax, it flows back but now full of nutrients. In this way, the more often we strain and relax our joints, the more nutrients they receive.
The key is to avoid excessive strain.
Which Physical Exercise Are Good for Joints?
This is an almost ideal type of physical exercise that works for nearly everyone: water supports our body, takes the strain from the joints while making the joints, muscles, ligaments and tendon work.
On the one hand, rowing is a pretty intensive physical exercise that will make you strain your muscles, increase the heart rate and make the blood flow more intense. On the other hand, cyclic circular movements done at moderate speed do not overload our joints while providing sufficient workout. Finally, rowing is the type of sports that doesn’t strain our knees and thighs and therefore is suitable for those who have issues or inflammation of lower joints.
During this workout, the back, knees, thighs and ankles experience moderate strain as your feet do not touch the ground and do not take the weight of your body. At the same time, the movement is cyclical similar to rowing or kayaking, so that the strain is both serious enough to develop the joints but not too severe to damage them.
Despite the fact that the strain during these exercises can be quite intense, they do not load the joints because the body is supported by water and therefore are good even for people with inflamed joints. The only thing to watch out is to avoid hypothermia.
During a ski trip, the leg joint strain is even less than during walking due to gliding movements. But it is important to remember that these exercises can be dangerous in older age because of falls, so that you should pay close attention to avoid that.
Pilates, yoga, stretching
All these exercises are static; they help to keep the spine flexible, develop the ligaments and tendon but almost don’t load the joints. Besides, yoga and Pilates can improve the state of the joint cavity preventing the development of arthrosis.
Which Exercises Can Be Dangerous for Joints?
Monotonous and intensive exercises are the most dangerous for joint health. It doesn’t matter whether they are power exercises or high-speed exercises.
As noted above, running can be safe and good for joints’ health, provided the strain is distributed correctly. However, if you skip protective equipment, run on inappropriate surfaces in poorly chosen footwear, the knee joints can be severely damaged.
Osteoarthritis is a kind of industrial diseases for professional footballers. Thus, the results of the research “Participation in Certain Sports Associated With Knee Osteoarthritis: a Systematic Review”, published in Journal of Athletic Training have shown that the risk of developing this disease among football players is 3-7 times higher.
The extra strain for knee joints during this workout is aggravated by the delayed risk of actively gaining weight observed in former athletes which also increases the chances of joint disorders. The research mentioned earlier states that the risk of developing osteoarthritis for these athletes is increased by 61%.
Is the Exercise Inconsistent with Health Joints?
No, of course not. Even if your joints are reminding of themselves once in a while, you shouldn’t skip exercise. But it’s important to consult with a doctor and select an appropriate and feasible workout. This will let joints receive all necessary nutrients and keep functionality while allowing you to stay active and healthy for many years.
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