By now, we are all well-versed in the benefits of regular exercise. Working out builds muscle, helps reduce body weight, increases stamina, and reduces the risk of serious conditions like heart disease. But can too much exercise be damaging to your joints? A recent article in the Washingtonian posed this question, citing statistics of recent increases in joint replacements and the continued participation in strenuous activities, like running and playing group sports, among adults.
It’s true that being active can help wear down the natural joint cartilage that exists in your hips and knees. With the exception of pro athletes or marathon runners who dedicate significant portions of their lives to working out, this usually occurs over the course of many years, eventually leading to the possibility for a hip or knee replacement. Still, as exercise continues into New Yorkers’ golden years, it’s important to practice caution and be aware of the pressures that we put on our joints as we move. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you work out.
Use good form
Your risk of straining a hip or knee increases if you are not moving properly. When working out, avoid strange movements and steps that might throw your alignment out of order. Take time to learn the proper way to bend and flex during workouts. You should also be certain to stretch out before and after starting a routine–no matter how confident you feel about your abilities to move.
Invest in the right gear
If you already have weak or arthritic joints, investing in braces and other supportive devices to alleviate pressure can be a big help in preventing further damage. Purchasing them up front and using them consistently can reduce your chances of more significant damage down the line. This is also true in terms of exercise equipment. For example, using an elliptical machine might place less pressure on your joints than running on hard surfaces alone would.
Mix it up
The more repetitive your activities, the more pressure that’s placed on the same joints over and over. Don’t be afraid to switch up your exercise routines. It might be a simple as incorporating a low-stress activity like swimming into your schedule or trying yoga to alleviate strain. Programs like CrossFit and boxing are other great options for changing up the way you move. Most importantly, avoid long-term high-impact workouts.
It’s important that you don’t feel a need to push yourself if you are feeling pressure or pain. There’s certainly no shame in taking a break, and your body will definitely be thankful for it down the line. This doesn’t just mean pausing in the middle of your routine, either. Scheduling “off days” to allow your body to rest and recover is essential to wellness in the long haul.
Work with a pro
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consult an expert who can devise a custom workout routine to fit your needs and goals. There are many professional trainers who are well-versed in exercise regimens that work to strengthen, not harm, joints. You can also speak with your physician to clear any activities that you are considering joining that might lead to injured joints.
Staying fit and healthy through exercise remains a great option for most individuals. If you’re concerned about the impact your workout is having on your joints, don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.