What are the benefits of regular exercise for joint health?

benefits of regular exercise for joint health

For a healthy body, regular exercise is necessary to improve flexibility and strengthen muscles. It also can reduce joint pain and stiffness, boost energy and help control weight. If you have a musculoskeletal condition such as arthritis, however, your doctor or physical therapist will recommend the appropriate exercises and amount of activity to protect your joints.

The human body is a marvel of engineering, but it needs regular exercise to function properly. It’s not just about the muscles—the joints, bones and supporting tissues also require exercise to remain strong and flexible. If you don’t use your joints, they lose strength and the cartilage that cushions them wears down with time. Joint movement also stimulates the genes that help cartilage repair itself, and exercise can be particularly helpful in reversing damage caused by an injury.

Regular, moderate intensity aerobic exercise can improve heart and joint health, help you maintain a healthy weight and increase your overall well-being. Aerobic activities include walking, bicycling, swimming and water aerobics, among others. To protect your joints, try to do low-impact aerobic exercise and work up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

What are the benefits of regular exercise for joint health?

Exercise that builds muscles, called resistance training, also helps to strengthen the joints and promotes mobility. This includes exercises that involve contracting the muscles against the force of gravity or against an elastic band or hand weights, such as squats, pushups and pull-ups. To protect your joints, limit the number of times you perform this type of exercise to two or three days a week and never do it to the point of pain.

The most important thing to remember when exercising is to listen to your body. If you feel sharp pain, or if the area is red or swollen, stop exercising and consult your doctor or physical therapist.

While it’s not known exactly what causes some types of arthritic pain, most of these conditions occur when the cartilage that lines and protects a joint begins to break down, or erode. Cartilage gets nutrients from the fluid that bathes it, and exercise increases circulation to joints, which may help reduce deterioration of cartilage.

In addition, exercise that involves movement of the joints through their full range of motion promotes flexibility and helps slow deterioration of cartilage in arthritic patients. The motion can also encourage lubrication of joints and decrease inflammation by causing the fluid to release natural pain killers.

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