Healthy Joints and Movement
As we get older, we realize the importance of having resilient, healthy joints, whatever we are doing, exercise or simple everyday activities. Humans are meant to move. We are designed to use the hundreds of joints and muscles that make up our biology. We want to shape our daily life so that it is as similar as possible to how it was during hunter-gatherer times. And when it comes to movement, it has to be varied motion throughout the day. If we do not structure our days around movement the way evolution intended (or planned), that’s when we can most likely end up with tight muscles, brittle joints, and cartilage starting to wear thin.
If you experience knee stiffness or joint discomfort, it is good to know that some simple strategies can help. What follows are 4 easy tips to help you maintain strong, flexible joints.
When you sit, it reduces blood flow, which means the joints benefit from fewer nutrients. Sitting also allows for tendons and ligaments to shorten – an added stressor on the joints. As mentioned in Why Everyday Movement is Non-Negotiable, when you have to sit for long periods of time, such as when working at a computer, every 30 minutes or so, you want to get up, stretch, and walk a little bit. The same goes if you are at a standing workstation. You want to incorporate movement throughout the day to nourish your cells. A few squats or other simple exercises can be nice little breaks throughout the day.
When you walk, it compresses and decompresses the ankle and knee joints. This sends nutrients to the cartilage that help keep it elastic. When you walk, it also enhances the production of synovial fluid (an egg-white-like substance) that helps keep the joints lubricated.
Taking short walks in the morning, at lunch, or after dinner, whenever you have a few minutes can be a great addition to your daily movement regimen. You can take the stairs more often and/or go on a hike with your dog, or with some friends. Whatever fits your schedule best to keep your body strong.
Go Barefoot (or Wear Minimalist Shoes)
When you wear cushioned heels, it shortens the Achilles tendon and modifies the alignment of the ankles. As mentioned in a previous post, you should progressively allow some barefoot time for low-risk activities to strengthen feet and replicate natural range of motion. Opt for shoes with minimalist design (like Vibram FiveFingers, Nike Free, Merrell, Inov-8, etc.), but make sure you go from a regular 8mm shoe (to maybe a 4mm shoe) to a zero-drop shoe gradually in order to give your body enough time to adjust.
Stretch and Roll Out Your Muscles
Going from cold muscles, say, right to CrossFit, puts great stress on the tendons and ligaments. You want to take the time to do some dynamic stretching before exercising and some static stretching afterward (as the latter weakens muscles temporarily).
Using a foam roller is another great option. As mentioned in Why Foam Rolling, before a workout, you would foam roll at a fast/rapid rate, targeting a light to moderate depth. This gets your muscles ready to work hard and it up-regulates the nervous system.
After a workout, you should foam roll at a slow rate, targeting a moderate to deep depth. This is a nice way to recover and calm the nervous system.
As you can see, 4 easy strategies can go a long way in helping you maintain joint health. Staying active is the main thing. Enough movement throughout the day (along with other variables) is necessary to ensure proper cellular health. Enough daily physical activity can help with joint stiffness and strengthens the muscles surrounding the joints. Sitting less, walking more, going barefoot whenever possible, stretching and foam rolling are all inexpensive ways to take care of your joints for the years to come.
Until next time!
Asprey, Dave. “6 Simple Habits to Build Stronger Joints.” Dave Asprey, 27 Jan. 2017, daveasprey.com/6-simple-habits-build-stronger-joints/. Accessed 4 July 2021.
“Simple Tips for Healthy Joints.” Ancient Nutrition Newsletter, firstname.lastname@example.org, 4 June 2021. Accessed 4 July 2021.
You can also find me on Instagram.