Maintaining strong bones and joints is one of the most important ways to keep your body healthy and strong. If you don't have strong bones and joints then this can increase your chances of developing osteoporosis or arthritis, but more immediately it can cause you a lot of pain and discomfort and make you more likely to suffer an injury such as a fracture or a sprain. These injuries can be minor depending on the circumstances or they may be major and disabling. For your own comfort, as well as an investment into your future, it is highly important to look after your bones and joints and to keep them strong. Following are some ways to do this.
Eat Lots of Calcium
The mineral calcium is highly important for keeping your bones healthy and strong and osteoporosis is often a result of a calcium deficiency. This is the most abundant mineral in the human body and it is important that you consume it in large quantities. You'll get calcium from milk and dairy products in particular, but it can also be found in a good number of green vegetables. Look at your fingernails – if they have small specks on them then this may be a sign of low calcium.
Get Lots of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is very important when it comes to bone health as it helps your body to absorb calcium. It's no good having lots of calcium in the body with no way to use it, so increasing your intake of vitamin D is just as important as increasing your intake of calcium.
High quantities of sugar have been shown to be bad for us in many ways and this extends to bone health. If you have a lot of refined sugar in your food then this can cause a decrease in bone mineral density. There are many ways you can cut down on this, but generally it will involve stopping eating sweets and cakes. Avoiding sofa drinks is also particularly useful.
Protein contains amino acids which are the building blocks of life making them very important for building and maintaining bone. Studies have shown that an increase in protein can help to decrease the likelihood of fractures. Likewise dietary protein can help to build muscle which can be very useful for supporting and strengthening the bones and joints.
Get Your Essential Fatty Acids
Fats are often made out to be villainous but actually they play many important roles in our diet (including aiding protein absorption). One use of them is to help lubricate our joints and prevent things like arthritis. Either get this from your diet with oily fish or take a cod liver oil/omega 3 fatty acid supplement.
Impact is not good for your bones or your joints and particularly where it is repetitive. For instance if you have any known knee or ankle problems then you shouldn't really consider running as the best way for you personally to stay in shape. Choose low impact activities such as bike riding or swimming and when you do have to partake in high impact sports and fitness regimes make sure to use precautions. For instance getting proper running shoes can help to absorb impact from the joints and to help improve the biomechanics of your stride (making sure you run in a way that won't cause unnecessary damage). Running on grass can also help.
If you have a problem area, if you perform a repetitive motion, or if you are attempting a risky activity such as squatting – then it is a good idea to use a support to help give the joint extra help and avoid any damage.
The back is perhaps the skeletal structure in the body that gives the most of us grief. One way to avoid this is to try and maintain a good posture and that can also have repercussions on the health of the rest of our body. This means walking with your shoulders back and chest out, it means sitting correctly at the computer and it means no slouching.
Maintain Muscle Balance
We've already mentioned that muscle is important as a way to protect joints and bone. At the same time though it important to make sure that the muscle is well balanced and proportioned. Muscle places force and tension on your joints by pulling or pushing them, and if this is not equal on either side it can cause your joints damage and result in discomfort. So balance your body out – don't train the pecs without training the traps equally, and likewise don't train the quadriceps if you're not going to train the hamstrings.
Address Problems Early
If you have any problems that you notice with your joints or bones, then it is important to see a specialist as soon as possible whether they be a doctor or a physiotherapist. This is crucial as ignoring the problem can exacerbate it, or the rest of your body can try and compensate for the problem resulting in further imbalances. Even if you don't think the discomfort is anything serious, something like a stress fracture can occur with no obvious cause or provocation so it's always worth getting checked out.