When you suffer from joint pain, it's very tempting to avoid exercise and moving in general. Although it might seem counter intuitive, this is actually one of the worst things you can do.
Of course, if you are experiencing major and persistent discomfort, a visit to your doctor or physiotherapist is a must, but for the rest of us, the answer is to get up and move. The longer you sit without moving the tighter and weaker your muscles get.
Your muscles actually support your bones, and as they weaken, more stress is put on your joints resulting in more pain. No one is saying that you need to jump up and run a marathon or become a weightlifter, but it is crucial that you do some weight bearing activities in addition to cardio. Also, alternate your workouts so that you are doing arms and then legs, as that won't overstress your muscles.
It's not enough to just do a few exercises, since your goal is to do full body workouts that include your arms, legs and core. Here are a few exercises and stretches that you should be incorporating into your day.
Being able to do a simple squat is important, because it's functional training and it uses the same muscles that engage when you stand up from a seated position or bend down to pick something up. Standing with your feet hip distance apart, bend your knees as you descend into a deep squat. Watch that your knees are over your toes and that your abdominal muscles are engaged. If this is very painful for your knees, simply try transferring your weight to your heels. This should help to alleviate any discomfort. Do 10 squats and hold them for five to 10 seconds.
Lunges are great, not only for your legs and glutes, but because you are also forced to use your abdominal muscles to help keep you stable. Starting in a standing position, take a step forward with one leg. Drop your back knee toward the floor, and bend your front knee 90 degrees. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged while holding the lunge. To come out of the lunge, push off from your back foot and leg. Repeat 12 times on each leg.
Note: For both the squats and lunges, watch that you don't bend your knees past 90 degrees, as that will put even more stress on your joints.
Point and flex:
We often forget about our ankles and feet, but they are also important to keeping you strong and mobile. This exercise is best done with a stretch band (Theraband). Place the band over your foot. Gently pull on the band to create some resistance, and then point and flex your foot slowly. Try spreading your toes and really focus on working through your whole foot. This exercise is great, because it both stretches and strengthens your feet and ankles. Do this 15 to 20 times on each foot.
Using weights or a resistance band, stand with your feet hip distance apart, knees slightly bent. Palms facing down, lift your arms straight up in front of you and overhead. If you find that there is a lot of pressure in your shoulders, try rotating your arms (so that your palms face inwards) to make it more comfortable. Do 12 arm lifts three times.
Lateral arm raises:
Starting in the same position as the arm raises, this time you will be lifting your arms out to the sides. If there is too much pressure in your shoulders, don't lift your arms too high and try taking them forward. To add more of a workout, once your arms are shoulder height, bend your elbows and reach your arms up to the ceiling. Do 12 arm lifts three times.
Sitting with your feet hip distance apart on a foam roller, roll back about half way (like a reverse sit up). Now lift your arms overhead, lower them, and then return to your start position. Do this 12 times and repeat.
In addition to stretching (which you should be doing regularly), try using a foam roller to release tight muscles.
With your hands supporting your head, roll back and forth with the foam roller under your back. Just watch that you don't roll too low on your back.
Supporting yourself on your forearms, roll back and forth over your quads. Watch that you don't roll over your knees.
Hamstrings and calves:
Supporting yourself with your hands, roll over the backs of your legs. Note that you might need to cross them in order to get a deeper massage.
Supporting yourself on your right arm, place your right hip on the foam roller. You can either stack your legs or place your left leg on the floor in front of you for balance. Roll out both sides.
Joint pain isn't fun, but it is a fact of life for many people. Rather than becoming more sedentary and exacerbating the situation, why not start moving, so that you can take back your life? You deserve it!
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