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Slideshow: Simple Exercises for Joint Health

Exercise Can Keep Joints Strong

Exercise helps keep joints flexible and strong. It can also help you lose weight, which takes pressure off aching joints. Every pound you lose takes 4 pounds of pressure off your knees and 6 pounds off your hips. If you have any joint issues, ask your doctor before starting a new exercise program, so you know what you can do safely.

Warming Up Is Critical

Warming up with gentle movements helps get your body ready for your workout. Gentle exercises such as side bends, shoulder shrugs, arm circles, overhead stretches, and bending toward (but not touching) your toes are all good warm-up exercises.  Repeat each move 3-5 times. Remember, there should be no pain with exercise -- ease into your activity. Save the stretch-and-hold movements for after your warm-up or workout.

Take the Plunge

Getting active strengthens the muscles that support your joints. Aerobic exercise (cardio) helps your most important muscle: your heart. Because you'll be exercising several times a week, start thinking about what activities appeal to you, whether they’re swimming, tennis, basketball, or something else you enjoy.

Get Stronger

Strengthening exercises such as weight training help you build the muscles that support your joints. You can use hand weights, resistance bands, or even a 1-liter water bottle. Start with weights that you can lift 12 to 15 times without slouching or poor form. Talk to a certified personal trainer to help design the best strengthening program for you.

Lat Stretch

Stand with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart. With your arms overhead, hold one hand with the other. Pull upward while leaning straight over toward your left side. Keep your lower body straight. You should feel the pull along your right side. Hold 15 to 30 seconds. Do this 2 to 4 times on each side. 

Tricep Stretch

Stand with your back straight and your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your left arm and bring your elbow straight up so that it points to the ceiling. Hold your elbow with your right hand.Pull your elbow gently toward your head. You're stretchingthe back of your bent arm. Hold 15 to 30 seconds. Then switch elbows. Repeat 2 to 4 times on each arm.

Calf Stretch

Place your hands on a wall, back of a chair, countertop, or tree. Now step back with your right leg. Keep it straight, and press your right heel into the floor. Push your hips forward and bend your left leg slightly. You should feel the stretch in your right calf. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times for each leg.

Quadriceps Stretch

You’ll feel this stretch along the front of your thigh. First, balance on your left foot. Bend your right knee, raising your ankle to your hand. Grab hold of your ankle, pulling your foot toward your butt to deepen the stretch. Keep your knees close together. Hold 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times for each leg.

Groin Stretch

Stretch your groin, or inner thigh muscles, by sitting on the floor with the soles of your feet pressed together. Grab your ankles and gently pull your legs toward you. Go only as far as you can. Use your elbows to press your knees toward the floor. You should feel the stretch in your inner thighs. Hold your groin stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat it 2 to 4 times.

Hamstring Stretch

Your hamstring muscles run down the back of your thigh. Stretch them by sitting up straight in a chair with one foot on the floor. Slowly raise the other leg, while keeping your knee straight. Support your leg with both of your hands. Hold this for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat 2 to 4 times on each leg.

Listen to Your Body

Listen to your body and know your limits. Exercise should challenge you, but it shouldn't cause lasting pain. If you have some mild muscle soreness when starting a new exercise, that’s normal. If it lasts more than a couple of days, ease up on your workout to give your body more time to get used to the new exercises. If you have any lasting pain, see your doctor.

Healthy Living Healthy Joints

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on February 05, 2014

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