By Jordyn Cormier
A lot of us, especially as we age, complain about joint discomfort and pain. Let’s face it, our joints just get creakier and creakier the older we get–no amount of turmeric is going to reverse that. But, many of us cite this as a reason for not making an effort to exercise. In fact, avoiding exercise is potentially the worst thing you can do for your joints.
I hate to admit it, but “use it or lose it” rings very true here. If you aren’t moving your joints through their full range of motion on a regular basis, they are going to get stiff and inevitably lose that capacity for mobility. So, if you aren’t exercising for fear of wreaking your joints, you are only encouraging the problems to worsen. Instead, it’s time to adopt a more accommodating way of exercising. There are plenty of low-impact activities that will work your body without putting too much pressure on your joints. Here are a few to get you excited:
Whether you hop on a machine or glide around in a kayak, rowing and paddling are great for your core and gentle on your joints. Oh, and be prepared to build a shocking amount of strength in your legs. If you tend towards lower back issues, make sure to take extra care in your core strengthening before hopping into a kayak. A strong, engaged core supports the entire lower back throughout all of that subtle twisting.
This practice is slow and strength-building. Yoga is so ubiquitous nowadays that you can easily find a style that works for you, whether it is in you local studio or on the internet. Of course, be sure to modify if there are any poses that feel uncomfortable on your joints. Only you know what works best for your body.
Crunches don’t work. Pilates does. If you are looking to build the core strength of a marble god or goddess, do not overlook pilates. This humble series of floor and reformer exercises is incredibly powerful. You’ll build long, lean muscles in your limbs and a core strength that will keep you upright in hurricane force winds. Plus, it’s almost completely practiced on the floor, which makes it a virtually no-impact workout. But don’t be fooled: just because you spend all your time on the floor does not mean it’s easy.
If you are unfamiliar, Tai Chi is a slow, flowing martial art that promotes inner calmness, sometimes called “mediation in motion.” While it is certainly not a thigh-busting cardio session, Tai Chi boasts serious health benefits, like reducing blood pressure and inflammation, improving flexibility, and improving energy and stamina. As for mind benefits, not only does it improve mood and reduce depression risk, but studies have suggested that Tai Chi may even help to reduce tension headaches.
While rock climbing may seem like more of an extreme sport, the actual motions are extremely joint-friendly. You’ll also be working almost every muscle in your body as you squeeze and tighten in order to haul yourself up a vertical or overhanging wall. For those with real joint issues, avoid bouldering, which involved climbing without a rope and has a higher risk for joint strain from falling. Top-roping is a better option. Check out your local climbing gym and give it a try. It’s honestly a fun activity for all ages.
If you have access to year-round swimming, it’s time to start taking advantage. Any sort of underwater exercise is amazing for your joints. Try water aerobics, lap swimming, or just cruise around freestyle. Floating is not only a fun sensation, but awesome for your joints.
Travel and fitness, all packed into one package; just grab your favorite velocipede and go. Biking is a great way to get moving without pounding your body on the pavement. Just be sure to pay attention to your alignment. Having an improper fit on your bike or poor pedaling technique can result in a lot of unnecessary stress on the knees.
Quit the pavement and find some dirt. Nature walks are not only healing and immune boosting, but they are good for your body. People of all ages go for long daily walks, so what’s stopping you?