Stretching and strength training are good for your muscles and cardio exercise is good for your heart, but what about maintaining healthy joints?
Joints need to move to keep them supple though they don’t have a blood supply, instead they rely on synovial fluid to “wash away” waste products that build up and can make them stiff.
A daily joint routine can keep your joints healthy and prevent stiffness, muscle imbalances and even arthritis. It can also restore lost range of motion, protecting you from aches and pains.
Try these movements for healthy joints and to keep them in shape.
The Neck Circle
We all spend hours in front of the computer or staring down at our phones these days, which can create problems with our posture. Neck circles are great for releasing that tension.
Start with a straight posture. Drop your chin to your chest. Slowly roll your right ear over your right shoulder then drop your head back gently and roll your left ear over the left shoulder. Come back to centre, repeat for five to 10 reps and then switch direction.
The ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body, but due to bad posture, motion can get worse over time. Like the swimming stroke, this offsets the negative effects of slouching shoulders.
Keep your arms straight and elbows locked as you lift one arm straight out in front of you and circle it backwards. Avoid rotating the torso. Keep your hips squared forward, your shoulders down and attempt to get your biceps close to your ear at the top of the movement. Repeat on the other side and keep alternating in a fluid motion for 10 to 20 reps. If performing in the office, try to avoid slapping your workmates with your windmilling arms.
Remember those 80’s aerobics videos with leotard-clad ladies rotating their hips in broad, suggestive circles? Well they certainly had healthy joints, and that’s the sort of thing you need to do in order to stay supple in the lower back area! Your lower back absorbs lots of shocks and gets compacted and stiff from sitting but don’t worry, you can keep it all loosey goosey by doing pelvic circles. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your hands on your hips. Keep your feet planted and core contracted as you move your hips in a circle Repeat five to 10 times in each direction.
You’ve probably done this if you have ever been to a yoga class. The Cat Cow is great for opening up the thoracic spine and lubricating the discs. Start on your hands and knees rest for a bit, then inhale as you arch your back and tilt your head and tailbone upward, letting your stomach lower toward the floor. Exhale as you round your back and pull the belly button in toward your spine and tuck your chin toward your chest. Repeat, following your breath, for five to 10 reps. Place a mat under your knees if it hurts.
The Ankle Circle
The ankle-roll restores movement to the ankle and can stabilise knee alignment in your gait as well as causing arches to stop falling. Stand or sit and lift one heel off the ground. Flex your foot, curling your toes toward your shin. Circle the ankle and point your toes at the bottom of the movement the come back to the starting position. Repeat for five to 10 reps in each direction on both legs.
The Wrist Roll
Working at a computer all day, gripping heavy weights at the gym or past strains or injuries can lead to problems in the wrists. Wrist rolls can keep your wrists healthy so that you can do yoga or CrossFit without a problem. Start with your arms outstretched in front of you, and fully open hands. Bring your fingers back toward your forearm, then circle at the wrist for five to 10 reps in each direction on both wrists.
Did you do them all? Well done, your healthy joints will appreciate it! You can give yourself a pat on the back. Which, by the way, is quite good for your shoulder joint too. Don’t strain yourself though!