Our joints are what hold our bones together, thus allowing us to move around with ease. It is what helps us bend, stretch, turn, and even shake our bodies. We know that our joints will become less supple as we age, potentially leading to various forms of severe physical impairment, including arthritis. Factors that can influence our joints’ health include our diet, exercise, and even our body weight.
Arthritis refers to the swelling of our joints and early symptoms can include any sort of joint pain or stiffness. There are two categories of arthritis namely osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis means the deterioration of our cartilage which is the smooth tissue that helps cushion our bones from rubbing together. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is a condition where the joints are damaged as a result of the joints’ lining thinning out due to a faulty immune system response.
There are various ways to treat joint pain such as taking over-the-counter medication for those experiencing mild pain. Other methods include maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and floating inside a flotation tank. Prevention is always better than cure, and below are some muscle and joint strengthening exercises that you can perform with minimal upfront investment.
1. Take a Walk
Walking is fairly easy to do and many people engage in it every day. It does not require any tools or equipment, making it one of the best muscle and joint strengthening exercises available. Those looking for a leisure stroll may do so by walking at a pace they are comfortable with. For something more challenging, try taking the path of hilly roads to further reap the benefits of this wonderful exercise. Jogging and sprinting are other higher impact alternatives that you can consider if you do not have any joint pain.
Have you ever wondered why cats or dogs stretch when they just woke up? It is because they are trying to awaken their muscles at while loosening stiff joints. Generally speaking, everyone’s degree of flexibility is different, with younger people being more flexible than the elderly. This is especially true for children whose skeletal structures have yet to fully develop.
Stretching is something that you can do in the comforts of your own home. Give the two simple stretches below a try when you are just starting out.
Stretching your triceps is a good way to maximize the flexibility of your arm muscles and relieve feelings of tightness. An easy one is the cross-body stretch, where you raise your right arm and reach it across the left side of your body. After that, the left arm should be bent at the elbow, slightly pulling your right arm towards your body. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, longer if you want a deeper stretch. Repeat the same steps on the other side.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
This stretch targets the lower body, aiming primarily to loosen the hips and knees. As hamstring soreness may potentially cause a knee injury, it is crucial that your hamstrings stay mobile. First, stand on your right foot, while the left foot is in front with the heel on the floor and toes pointed up. Bend forward at your hips with your right knee bend, assuming an almost-sitting position. With your right leg bent, the left leg should be completely straight. You will feel the stretch in the hamstring of the left leg. Take on this position for 30 seconds and repeat these steps on the other side.
This yoga for spinal health article further explores the importance of stretching along with exercises that you can integrate into your routine.
3. Tai Chi
Tai Chi is one of the oldest forms of Chinese martial arts in existence whose gentle nature has misled some into believing that it is something only retirees do in their free time. It typically involves a flow of rhythmic movements integrated with breathing and mindfulness. The Chinese practice it as a way to cultivate chi, a life force they believe exists within all living things. Many people use Tai Chi as a way to feel physically and spiritually uplifted after a session.
Tai Chi is usually practiced in a group but can also be done on your own without any special equipment or tools. Beginners will typically start out with simple movements to establish a mind-body connection. You can practice Tai Chi indoor or outdoor, with a single session lasting from five to 30 minutes.
Here is a video to get you started.
4. Bodyweight Exercises
Calisthenics is another form of muscle and joint strengthening exercise that can be performed anywhere without any equipment. It has gained popularity in recent years because it places less stress on the muscles and joints than traditional weightlifting. Calisthenics mainly involves pulling and pushing motions using your body and sometimes another object like a pull-up bar.
Beginner calisthenics usually involve learning how to build a strong foundation using simple movements like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and core exercises. The goal here is to perform these exercises with good form rather than counting the number of reps. This is because calisthenics requires a wide range of motion which only flexible, healthy joints can provide. We recommend seeking out a trained calisthenics practitioner if you decide to give this a try.
You can also add resistance bands to your bodyweight workout to up the challenge. Resistance bands work similarly to free weights except that the stretch is felt more during the concentric phase of the exercise and less on the eccentric. Using resistance bands has a lesser chance of causing injury than conventional dumbbells and barbells. They are also easier to carry around.
The exercises above are excellent starting points in your foray into the world of health due to their simplicity and affordability. They not only make your muscles and joints stronger but are also useful for weight management and help in releasing stored tension.
Disclaimer: We highly recommend that you obtain a diagnosis from a medical professional if your joint pain has yet to subside after some time.