How to Strengthen Your Joints
As you age, you lose muscle and bone mass, which can lead to joint problems. Building and maintaining joint strength now can help you stay active and ward off problems down the road.
1. Exercise Regularly
Exercise improves bone density and keeps the muscles that surround your joints strong, says A. Lynn Millar, PhD, professor of physical therapy at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina.
“Any type of exercise can be used to build and maintain joint health, though weight-bearing activities are better for building bone density,” Millar says. “Walking, running, and cycling are all great options.”
2. Build Muscle Strength
Building muscle strength, especially in your legs, is another way to maintain healthy joints, Millar says.
Try these three resistance exercises, which use your own body weight to work your hips and legs. Do them 2-3 days a week.
- Squats. Try 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Or do fewer repetitions and hold at the bottom for 15-30 seconds. As you lower yourself down, reach back with your butt like you’re sitting in a chair, and don’t let your knees pass your toes.
- Lunges. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side. Keep your trunk upright and your knees pointing straight forward.
- Airplane (Warrior) Pose. Hold this standing pose for 10-30 seconds. Do 2-3 repetitions on each side. Stand on one leg and slowly bend forward from your hip, raising your other leg to point straight behind you. Bring your arms to reach out past your head. It’s OK to use the back of a chair to help you balance.
You can also try resistance bands, free weights, or gym equipment, says Calin Moucha, MD, associate chief of joint replacement surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital.
3. Strengthen Your Core
These exercises work your trunk and strengthen your core. Do them 2-3 days a week.
- Curl-Ups: Start with 3 sets of 15. Lie with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly curl up from your head and shoulders. Clear your shoulder blades from the floor, then curl back down.
- Pushups: Start with 1 set of 10 and increase as you improve. Make sure to keep your abs and butt tight the whole time. It’s OK to use a modified position (on your knees) if necessary.
- Side Plank: Lie on your right side. Raise your body and legs off the ground but keep your elbow, forearm, and foot firmly planted. Your body should remain in a straight line from head to foot. Extend your left arm up. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side. Millar suggests starting with your elbow and forearm on the ground instead of with your arm extended.