As our bodies age, muscle strength and joint health naturally decreases. But there are many things we can do to preserve the health of our knees throughout our lives, even if we suffer from osteoporosis or other debilitating joint diseases. In this article you will learn how to keep your knees healthy and pain free (hopefully) throughout your life.
The knee is the largest joint in the body. People use their knees everyday, as they move from sitting to standing positions, walk around, or do any form of exercise. As a result, our knees are also very prone to injury and pain. When these occur, a doctor may recommend exercises to help a person strengthen the muscles around the knee.
Several factors can cause knee pain, including muscle stiffness, obesity, injury, and high-impact activities such as running. If you’ve had knee injuries in the past, they can be debilitating and restrict mobility. Losing muscular support in your legs as you age also leaves you more vulnerable to knee injury. One of the leading causes of knee pain is osteoarthritis, a disease which causes the cartilage that protects the bones in your knees to wear away, leading to joint degradation and pain.
There are many options available to us to help relieve knee pain. These include painkillers, steroid injections, and even surgery, but in this article we are focusing on more natural and healthful ways to maintain healthy knees and reduce knee pain, including proper diet and low-impact exercise. Making some simple lifestyle changes can give you a good anti-aging defense against the deterioration of joints, including our precious knees.
In the last few decades, arthritis of the knee has doubled among older Americans. Much of this increase is due to inactivity, coupled with obesity. But as the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Older adults are advised to adopt dietary and exercise habits that support strong bones and joints.
Research shows that overweight patients who lost 5% of their body weight experience significant improvements with mobility. Behavioral modifications such as quitting smoking and maintaining an active lifestyle are likely to bring a lot of positive outcomes as well.
In addition to eating healthy, low impact aerobic exercise and weight training can help strengthen our knee joints, thereby greatly reducing the rate of weakening over time.
When you make a plan to improve and maintain good knee health, don't overlook or downplay the importance of diet. There are amazing health benefits that can derive from a healthy diet, including weight loss and improved joint health. Eating right doesn't have to be complicated. What’s important is that you stick to the basics and be consistent.
When you trim your waistline, you reduce the extra burden on your joints. Effective ways to lose weight include reducing the consumption of refined sugar and alcoholic beverages, eating more plant-based foods, and even moderating what times of day you eat.
One of the most popular and effective methods of weight loss is known as intermittent fasting, where you narrow your feeding window each day. For example, if you eat your first meal at 11:00 noon, and eat your last meal at 7:00 pm, you will fast each day for a period of 18 hours.
Feel free to eat plenty of veggies. They are loaded with antioxidants -- substances that can help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Include spinach, spring greens, broccoli, and parsley in your diet, all of which contain the antioxidant carotenoids, as well as calcium and magnesium. Enzymes, found in fruits and veggies like apples, onions, shallots, and strawberries, may also help reduce joint inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids work by reducing inflammation in your body. One easy way to add them to your diet is to eat two 3-ounce servings of fatty fish each week. Eating fish such as trout, salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and sardines, have other health benefits such as maintaining cholesterol levels in blood.
One study shows that oleocanthal found in olive oil helps prevent soreness in joints, much like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) do. About 3.5 tablespoons of olive oil offer the same relief as 200 milligrams of ibuprofen. Olive oils with the most potent flavor have the highest amount of oleocanthal. Say yes to olive oil and no to other fats like butter.
Vitamin C also helps build connective tissues. Aim for the recommended 75 milligrams a day for women and 90 milligrams a day for men. Knee-friendly fruits appear to be vitamin C-packed ones, like kiwi, orange, mango, strawberries, grapefruit, and papaya.
Avoid high temperature cooking of meat. Meat cooked at high temperatures forms compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that are known to cause inflammation in your body. They are linked to diseases such as arthritis, heart stroke, and diabetes. You can reduce your levels of AGEs if you simply stay away from grilled, fried, broiled, and microwaved meats. Also limit processed foods in your diet, as they are often fried or cooked at high temperatures.
Don't stretch before exercise. Flexibility helps you move better. Try to stretch daily or at least three times a week. But don't do it when your muscles are cold. Do a light warm-up first, like walking for 10 minutes, to loosen up the joints, ligaments, and tendons around them.
Walking. It may seem obvious, but the more we walk, the better we can maintain the health of our knees. Walking is a very low-impact type of exercise, but to get the most out of our walks from a health perspective, it’s important to maintain proper body posture and to move quickly. As we walk around, look for stairs that you can climb up and down to intensify your workout.
Swimming. At the top of the list of joint-friendly exercises, swimming is a great low-impact option that burns tons of calories while giving you and your knees a great workout. Buoyancy in the water reduces stress on your body by helping to support your weight, and incorporates cardio, strength, and flexibility in one workout. Even the basic freestyle stroke engages muscles throughout the upper and lower body, including the leg muscles needed for good knee health.
Bicycle Riding. The benefits of bike riding are almost as endless as the streets and trails you could soon be exploring. If you’re considering taking up cycling as a way to maintain and improve the health of your knees, and weighing it against other potential sports activities, then we’re here to tell you that cycling is hands down the best option.
Admittedly, we’re biased – but there are an awful lot of good reasons to choose bike riding - and especially electric bike riding - as your newest pastime.
Bicycle riding is an excellent form of aerobic exercise, with the advantage of being very low-impact. Cycling allows your knees to move through their entire range of motion, while at the same time strengthening the supporting muscles. Being a low-impact form of exercise means that cycling limits impact stress on weight-bearing joints, like your hips, knees, and ankles. Plus, the movement helps lubricate the joints, which reduces pain and stiffness.
There are so many ways that bike riding as a form of exercise can boost your mood: there’s the basic release of adrenaline and endorphins, combined with being outdoors and exploring new views. You can ride solo – giving you time to process your worries or concerns, or you can ride with a group of other cyclists which broadens your social circle.
But for many Baby Boomers, they worry about some of the challenges that cycling can present. What if the hills are too steep? What if I can’t keep up with other riders? What if I get too far from home and do not have the energy to get back safely?
These are all legitimate concerns. And they are all surmounted by the addition of an electric motor to a bicycle. An electric bike can be ridden like a conventional bike, pedaling, but when hills, headwinds or other challenges present themselves, an ebike has a motor that can propel you forward. The power from the ebike motor can help you pedal more easily, and if you get tired of pedaling, most ebikes also have a throttle, which can move the bike forward with no pedaling required.
To learn more about electric bikes, check out our Ebike Buyer’s Guide.