JOINT HEALTH RESOURCES
EXERCISE WITHOUT EXERCISING
Did you know that just 20 minutes of playing with your kids or grandkids can burn more than 100 calories? Or, that spending an hour pulling weeds in the garden or mowing the lawn can burn up to 400 calories? What’s great about these kinds of activities is we don’t really consider it exercise, but we get to use our muscles and joints without feeling as if we are “working out.” This may be the key to keeping moving!
Here are some great ways to have fun while keeping active, burning calories and getting your joints moving:
New Leash on Life:
It won’t feel like exercise if you bring along your four-legged family member, right? Taking your pooch on a 30-minute walk just three times a week can help improve blood pressure, energy, get your joints moving and can lower your weight (which also takes stress off your hips, knees and ankles) . A 30-minute walk can burn more than 100 calories – and it helps keep your dog in shape, too!
Dance it Out:
Dance classes won’t only make you lighter on the dance floor, but it’s a great way to keep moving those hips and knees. One hour of swing, cha cha or salsa – even line dancing -- can burn close to 400 calories, plus it’s great for socializing with others.
Even beginner yoga has big benefits. An hour class burns close to 200 calories, plus yoga helps endurance, balance and flexibility.
If you prefer to try some fun exercise at home, consider getting a gaming system – like a Wii – that relies on your movement to play. A 30-minute session of Wii bowling, for instance, will burn 100 calories without lifting a ball or worrying about those ugly rental shoes -- plus, your grandkids will think you are the coolest!
None of these options require a gym membership or even any type of exercise equipment. Experts believe that if you get exercise doing fun activities that you actually enjoy, you’ll be more apt to stick to doing these activities long term.
All calories-burned calculations are based on the activity of a 150 lb. person. Estimated calories burned will increase if your weight is higher or reduce for those at lower body weights. (Source: SparkPeople)
Splash Your Way to Better Fitness
According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), exercising in a pool “can improve agility, balance, and cardiovascular fitness.” Pool workouts provide the resistance needed to help with muscles with the necessary buoyancy to keep stress on joints reduced (a 200 lb. person will “weigh” about 10 pounds in a fresh-water pool, less if it’s salt water). It’s the perfect combination for beginning exercisers, though even pool exercises can be tailored to much higher fitness levels.
Swimming laps (starting out at 5-10 minutes if you are beginner), is one option, but there are some other in-pool exercises to help you create a splash in your water workout routine. Below are some exercise ideas (with the exercise sources and links to more pool exercises included):
Hip kickers at pool wall:
Stand with the pool wall to one side of your body for support. Move one leg in a forward direction with the knee straight, like you are kicking. Return to start. Then move the same leg to the side, and return to the start position. Lastly, move that same leg behind you. Repeat 3 sets of 10 and switch the kicking leg. (Source: APTA)
Stand upright, with shoulders back, chest lifted and arms bent slightly at your sides. Slowly stride forward, placing your whole foot on the bottom of the pool (instead of just your tiptoes), with your heel coming down first, then the ball of your foot. Avoid straining your back by keeping your core (stomach and back) muscles engaged as you walk. You can add intensity by lifting your knees higher. You also can do interval training – pumping arms and legs faster for a brief period, then returning to your normal pace, repeating the process several times.(Source: Arthritis Foundation)
While standing in the pool by the pool side, place arms shoulder width apart on pool edge. Press weight through your hands and raise your body up and half way out of the water, keeping elbows slightly bent. Hold 3 seconds and slowly lower back into pool. For an easier variation: place hands on edge of pool shoulder width apart, bend elbows, and lean chest toward the pool wall. (Source: APTA)
Experts recommend that you wear water shoes to increase traction on the pool floor (and to avoid slipping on the pool deck), and to exercise in water waist or chest high depending. Even though you won’t feel yourself sweating during pool exercise, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated as if exercising on land. And, of course, make sure to wear waterproof sunscreen! Use your workout to meet new people. Look for group water-exercise classes locally to add to the fun, even in winter (indoor pool).
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Can Your Joints Predict the Weather?
When Grandpa Jim said he “felt a storm coming” when his knee acted up, he was probably onto something. For those with ongoing joint health issues, certain weather situations, such as excessive heat and humidity or thunderstorms and other disturbances can play a role in joint discomfort.
While no one knows for certain the exact relationship between weather and joint health – since each person may not experience the same thing in the same weather – scientists do believe that there are some correlations. Here are some key factors that play a role.
Increased Heat & Humidity:
Some studies suggest that temperature changes can cause fluctuations in fluid levels in the body, which can lessen lubrication of the joints, thereby increasing inflammation and pain.
Before bad weather arrives, barometric pressure will drop (you’ve probably heard the weather forecaster call for the arrival of a low-pressure system when stormy weather is on its way). This change in atmospheric pressure, particularly when it is rapid (before a quick, moving thunderstorm, for instance), is believed to allow tissues in the body to expand. This expansion puts pressure on the nerve endings in the joints called baroreceptors. If you’ve ever had swelling after traveling by plane, this is the same affect (cabins of airplanes have less pressure than when you are at ground level in your home or office).
Hot weather can also lead to dehydration. It’s important to stay hydrated because the cartilage in joints relies on water. Without enough water intake, combined with loss of fluids due to increased sweating, the concentration of fluid in the joints can decrease which can lead to joint discomfort in those most prone to this issue.
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A Step In The Right Direction: Choosing Better Footwear For Joint Health
When it comes to joint health, the type of footwear you choose is important, particularly for ankles, knees and hips. Many factors of a shoe’s design will affect the load, or pressure, put on your joints with each step.
Many people consider the height of the shoe’s heel as a key element for comfort, but flexibility of the shoe, width of shoe, the ability to stay balanced, ankle support and other factors also come into play. Here are some common shoe options and how they fare for joint health support:
Flip or Flop?:
Flip-flops may not be the best choice, mechanically, for people with balance or mobility issues due to concerns with falling, but they are not a flop for joint health. A 2010 study published in Arthritis Care & Research found that wearing flip-flops creates significantly less knee stress than some other types of shoes, even compared to support sneakers. Look for flip-flops with thicker toe straps for better support. (Shakoor, N., Sengupta, M., Foucher, K. C., Wimmer, M. A., Fogg, L. F., & Block, J. A. (2010). Effects of common footwear on joint loading in osteoarthritis of the knee. Arthritis Care & Research,62(7), 917-923. doi:10.1002/acr.20165)
The Skinny on Summer Sandals:
Speaking of straps, choose sandals with more straps for better foot and ankle support. Thin, flimsy straps may not hold the feet in place secure enough as you walk.
Take Heed with Heels:
It is best to avoid heels, except for special occasions, but, if you do wear heels, choose a lower heel. Look for a wedge heel for better distribution of weight on the shoe, plus rubber soles to avoid slipping and toe boxes with enough room so toes are not squished. All of these things combined help absorb shock, add stability and reduce stress on feet, ankles and knees if heels can’t be avoided.
Flex Your Step:
Flexible shoes, like ballet-slipper style flats, or flexible men’s footwear, is a much better option than stiff shoes. The shoe should have the natural ability to bend as you walk.
Don’t Over Support:
Too much support in a shoe, such as in the arch, can actually have a negative effect on joint health. The foot needs to be able to move naturally to accept the shock of each step (what is called pronation). Too much arch support built into shoes or from the use of orthotics can prevent this, and shift this shock absorption to other joints.
Believe it or not, you should kick off your shoes altogether for better joint health! According to experts, walking barefoot can reduce pressure on the knees and hips by around 15% compared to when wearing shoes. Summer gives us the perfect excuse to go barefoot (where it’s safe to walk without shoes, of course!). (Shakoor, N., Sengupta, M., Foucher, K. C., Wimmer, M. A., Fogg, L. F., & Block, J. A. (2010). Effects of common footwear on joint loading in osteoarthritis of the knee. Arthritis Care & Research,62(7), 917-923. doi:10.1002/acr.20165)
Talk to your doctor if you questions about proper footwear and pronation.
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Protecting Your Joints During Exercise!
One of the best ways to manage your joint health is through movement – yoga, biking, walking and weight training, just to name a few. This regular exercise can help range of motion and flexibility, strengthen muscles to support joints and keep weight in check to reduce force on your joints. However, it’s important to make sure you are properly prepared to protect joints before and during any exercise routine.
Try these tips to exercise safely and effectively:
Get Savvy with Sneakers:
Not all sneakers are created equal. It’s best to try on a variety of options to see which feel and fit best – walk around the store in them for several minutes to be sure of the feel. Better yet, find a specialized athletic gear store that has a knowledgeable staff who not only know the differences in the sneakers they sell, but can determine the best fit based on your pronation (the natural movement of your foot).
Stretch It Out:
It’s important to stretch before and after exercising. Your joints’ normal movement patterns and range of motion decrease with tight muscles, so make sure to stretch out all major muscle groups. Hold each stretch for around 20 to 30 seconds to get the full effect. Find a simple stretching video online that can be done even on days you don’t exercise, especially when you first wake up.
Never Skip Your Warm Up:
While you may be tempted to jump right in after stretching, skipping the warm-up can actually increase joint discomfort. Add five minutes of light cardio activity, such as jumping jacks or brisk walking, to get your blood flowing and your joints lubricated.
Mix It Up:
Doing the same exercise routine day after day can be boring and cause you to burnout or injure yourself. Muscles become weak from overuse through repetitive exercises, meaning your joints take on more impact. Mix up high-intensity activities like weight training with something more soothing and low-impact, such as yoga or swimming.
Almost all exercises can be modified to make them more comfortable and less intense on your joints. Look for variations of exercises for those who have joint health issues or work with a personal trainer to modify exercises to your needs..
Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
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Spring into Action!
The improving weather means more opportunities to exercise outdoors, which is good news for those who suffer from joint health issues. Some of the best exercises for joint health – walking and cycling, for instance – are often more enjoyable when done outdoors in changing scenery, on varied terrain and amongst nature (instead of on indoor gym equipment!). In fact, studies show that exercising outside not only increases energy and the feeling of revitalization, but decreases tension, anger and depression.
Try these joint-friendly exercise options outdoors, either alone or, even better, with friends:
Walk It Off
Walking is the easiest exercise to incorporate into your daily routine. Not only is it free, but it requires no equipment and can be done almost anywhere. Walking helps build muscles in the lower body, taking the pressure off your joints as your muscles strengthen to handle more of your weight. Take your four-legged, furry friend for a stroll through your neighborhood or head to a local trail to take in the blooming trees and flowers (bring a pair of binoculars to check out the returning birds!). If you’re a beginner, start on short walks on flatter trails, and build up to longer distances and hills over time.
Stick to a Schedule
Once you create a sleep schedule, make sure you stick to it every single day, even on weekends. A regular sleep routine keeps your internal clock consistent and helps you rest better. Ideally, you’ll be able to nod off quickly and rest soundly through the night over time.
“Go” Be a Pedal Pusher
Maybe you haven’t been on a bike in a while, but the phrase, “it’s like riding a bike,” is used for a reason! After a spin around the neighborhood, you’ll be back in the hang of riding in no time. While walking is great, cycling is even less jolting for your joints, and it helps stabilize your core and is a great option for those with knee issues. Stick to paved paths rather than dirt trails. Make sure to wear a helmet and map your course ahead, paying close attention to avoid busy roadways.
Nothing quite says spring like prepping a garden. Be it flowers or vegetables, gardening can provide consistent movement (and motivation – pull those weeds!) while not being so intense as to create further joint health issues. Exercise your green thumb safely by knowing what type of gardening your body can handle, choosing ergonomic gardening tools (including wearing protective kneepads when working on the ground) and bringing your garden work up to you when possible. This means working at a gardening table/bench to avoid excessive bending and lifting as you pot flowers.
IIf you’re lucky enough to have your swimming pool open already (even better if it’s heated!) or live near a body of water, take full advantage of swimming. This zero-impact exercise is ideal for joint health issues since the water’s buoyancy supports your body’s weight, reducing stress on your joints. Try swimming laps of different strokes to make it less monotonous or take a water aerobics class to socialize while you exercise.
What’s great about staying active is you may also lose weight. For every pound you lose, there will be four less pounds of pressure of your knees. Talk to your doctor before starting any new physical activities to determine what exercises are best for you.
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The 1, 2, 3s for Better Zzzs
It’s a common myth that less sleep is needed as we age. In fact, your sleep needs will remain the same, but your ability to get a good night’s rest has probably changed. According to the National Sleep Foundation, as we get older, we have a harder time both falling asleep and staying asleep than we did previously. In a review of sleep data that included more than 3,500 healthy sleepers, the number of times a person wakes up during sleep increases significantly after the age of 40.
Trust Your Inner Clock
The natural sleep/wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is different at age 50 than it was when you were 25. Now you may feel tired by 9 p.m., while you’re revving to go early in the morning. Listen to the message your body is sending. Shift your sleep schedule to your body’s needs, which means you may need to hit the pillow earlier than you used to.
Stick to a Schedule
Once you create a sleep schedule, make sure you stick to it every single day, even on weekends. A regular sleep routine keeps your internal clock consistent and helps you rest better. Ideally, you’ll be able to nod off quickly and rest soundly through the night over time.
“Go” Before You Get Comfy
According to the National Sleep Foundation, around 53% of adults ages 55-84 get up to go to the bathroom every night or almost every night. Limiting beverages in the hours before bedtime and making one last bathroom visit before climbing into bed for the night , can help with middle-of-the-night urges.
Say No To Naps
The urge to nap can be strong in late afternoons (especially after lunch), but this can actually make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Snap out of your slump with a glass of ice water, a short walk outside or even a phone call with a friend. If you have to nap during the day, experts recommend keeping it to 30 minutes or less.
If you are someone who likes to read from a tablet or watch TV in or before bed, it may be affecting your sleep. The exposure to short-wave (blue) light from electronic devices can throw off the body’s circadian rhythm, so it’s best to keep these devices out of the bedroom.
If you find that you are still waking during the night, pay attention to how long it takes you to fall back asleep. If it takes longer than 5-10 minutes for you to doze off again, sleep experts advise that you speak to your doctor.
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How To Build Muscle Mass After 50
Building muscle mass is an important component of wellness in every phase of life. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine and the US Department of Health and Human Services both strongly encourage adults to include resistance training – the tool for building muscle mass – in their regular exercise routine. Muscle mass begins to decline after age, even in healthy individuals. The process speeds up even further after age 65. Resistance training provides several benefits after age 50. In addition to building muscle mass, resistance training may help lower your blood pressure, increase the amount of calories you burn at rest and help regulate blood sugar levels. Resistance training also increases bone strength, leading to healthier joints.
Muscle mass naturally decreases with age. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, by age 50, 10 percent of your muscle mass may be lost. To build muscle mass, resistance training should be performed at least twice each week, targeting large muscle groups throughout your body. Your workout doesn’t have to be time-consuming – a full-body strengthening workout can typically be accomplished with eight to 10 different exercises. As with any new exercise program, check with your doctor before you begin resistance training exercises.
Circuit training is a time-effective way to build muscle mass in all your major muscle groups. In a gym setting, a circuit may consist of a variety of machines, each targeting different muscles. For example, you may begin on the first machine by performing 10 to 15 repetitions of biceps curls. After a short rest break – typically 30 seconds or less – you may perform leg presses. These exercise programs may also use free weights or resistance bands. Circuit training saves time by allowing one body part to rest while you strengthen a different area. It can also increase the amount of fat burned by keeping your heart rate elevated throughout the workout.
Resistance exercises can also be performed in the comfort of your home without fancy equipment. Bodyweight exercises help build muscle mass as you move against gravity. For example, squats – bending your knees and lowering yourself down as if you are going to sit in a chair – build muscle mass in your buns and thighs. Push-ups build muscle in your chest and arms. Crunches – partial sit-ups – build muscle in your midsection. Bodyweight exercises are often performed in sets of 10 repetitions, working up to three sets in a row.
Resistance training can cause injury, particularly if you lift weight that is too heavy, exercise too frequently or use improper form. Consider scheduling a session with a personal trainer -- often available at a local gym -- to design a program that is safe for you. Allow at least one day between resistance training sessions to allow your muscles to recover, and stop exercising immediately if you have pain.
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What you need to know about foods that support muscle and joint health
Spring is around the corner and we all want to be healthy and active when it comes! Read on to learn about foods that support muscle and joint health. Plus, you’ll earn bonus points just by reading about it! No doubt about it: regular exercise is important for joint and muscle health. But did you know there are foods in the kitchen that can help you keep them in shape too? Adding things like antioxidant-rich produce, calcium-rich dairy, and the anti-inflammatory qualities of Omega 3 rich fish into your diet help keep your body strong. Search for recipes that include these ingredients for your next family meal or gathering with friends, and you'll be doing both you and your loved ones a favor.
Eat More Omega-3 Rich Fish: Not only are omega-3 rich fish good for your heart, but they're good for your joints and muscles too. As an anti-inflammatory the omega-3s in the fish may help reduce stiffness and pain in joints and soreness in hard-working muscles. Salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring are all good sources of omega-3 fats. Aim to eat two 3.5-ounce servings of fatty fish a week to get the most benefits. If you're not a fan of fish, flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans and their oils can also help you get more omega-3s.
Load Up on Fruits and Veggies: All the hype is true: fruits and vegetables are an important part of your diet, especially for your joints. Go ahead and load your shopping cart with an array of colorful produce to get your fill. The antioxidants in these nutrient-rich gems help fight free radicals that attack and damage the cells in your joints, and may protect your joints from osteoarthritis. Antioxidant-rich choices include kale, sweet potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, plums, berries and cantaloupe. You might also want to consider adding tart cherry juice to your daily routine. Recent studies, including a 2013 study published by the Osteoarthritis Research Society International, indicate that the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties in the juice might help alleviate joint and muscle pain.
Add a Little Spice: Small but powerful, spices also support muscle and joint health. Turmeric, the main ingredient in curry, and ginger both contain substances that decrease the inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Sweet cinnamon also has anti-inflammatory properties, and protects muscles and joints from free radicals. Cinnamon and ginger add zip to both sweet and savory dishes, including muffins, pancakes, rice, veggies and meat. Add turmeric to soups, stews, grains, veggies and meat dishes for warmth and color.
Better With Dairy: Not only do your bones need calcium and vitamin D, but so do your joints. Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet may affect joint health, according to a 2013 study published in the "Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics". Fortified milk is a good source of both calcium and vitamin D. Plus, milk is also rich in protein, which is necessary for maintaining muscle mass. Drink low-fat or nonfat milk to limit your intake of saturated fat and calories.
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The Joint and Heart Health Benefits of Swimming
Strong Muscles, Healthy Joints
Swimming offers a full-body workout – your legs propel you forward, your arms cut through the water to guide your way, and your core keeps your body stable. Adding swimming to your fitness routine is a great way to tone up all over, as well as develop lean muscle that benefits your joints. Strong muscles offer support for your joints, which may make you less prone to injuries, and strong core muscles support proper alignment, which benefits joint health.
Heart-Healthy Exercise Without the Joint Impact
Swimming is also a great way to exercise without impact on your joints. While a runner experiences roughly 180 foot strikes per minute — with their full weight landing on a single foot each time — and even walking involves low impact on your joints with each step, swimming means you glide through the water, impact-free. But no-impact doesn’t mean “no intensity.” Swimming offers more cardiovascular benefits than lower-intensity activities like walking, says the Harvard Medical School, and Harvard reports that swimmers have mortality rates even lower than runners.
Stress Relief for Heart Health
Another heart-healthy bonus: Swimming helps you relax, reducing stress that might otherwise contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. Working out in the water forces you to focus on your breath and move mindfully, both of which can increase your sense of Zen. If you don't mind the cold, cool water swimming offers particular benefits for stress relief. That same review found that exposure to cool water increases "feel-good" compounds like dopamine, which can enhance your mood.
How to Get Started
Once your doctor gives you the OK to start swimming, start mixing short sessions into your weekly fitness routine. Consider taking a few swimming lessons to brush up, even if you used to swim regularly. An instructor can ensure you’re swimming with the correct form, since poor technique can lead to joint injuries. Take it slow, with 10 to 15 minutes of easy lap swimming, then gradually increase the length of your workout, a few minutes at a time, as you get stronger. Don’t be afraid to mix it up, either – a water aerobics or water running class offers the same low-impact benefit as regular swimming and adds more variety to your routine.
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Foods That Promote Joint Health
Vitamin C-Rich Citrus
Starting your day with a juicy grapefruit or snacking on an orange offers serious benefits for your joints. Citrus fruits come packed with vitamin C — nearly all the vitamin C you need for the day — which supports joint health. Vitamin C helps you make collagen. If you get bored with snacking on plain citrus, mix it up. Sprinkle cinnamon over a grapefruit half and broil for 3 to 5 minutes or mix orange juice with chopped fresh mint and olive oil for a joint-healthy citrus salad dressing.
Broccoli and Kale
Bring on the green veggies. Broccoli and kale are not only affordable and easy to find, but they're great for your joints. Like citrus, they supply an impressive amount of vitamin C – a cup of broccoli provides all the vitamin C you need for the day. But both veggies also contain calcium, one of the minerals that help keep your bones strong and healthy. Instantly boost the nutritional benefits of your favorite soup by adding a handful of kale a few minutes before serving, allowing just enough time for the leaves to wilt. Add steamed broccoli to salads or finely chopped broccoli to your scrambled eggs as they cook to pack more veggies into your breakfast.
Salmon and Fatty Fish
When it comes to joint-friendly superfoods, it's tough to beat salmon. Each serving packs in high-quality protein — which your body can use to maintain healthy cartilage, tendons, ligaments and other joint tissues — as well as omega-3 fatty acids. It's important to get omega-3 fats from your diet, since your body can't make them on its own. Salmon, tuna, rainbow trout, herring and sardines all supply healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Add more flavor by sprinkling the fish with lemon juice and black pepper or make a healthy glaze using orange juice, soy sauce, fresh ginger and sesame oil.
Chia, Flaxseed and Walnuts
While fatty fish gets the most attention when it comes to omega-3s, it isn't the only source of these healthy fats. Walnuts, chia and flaxseeds also supply essential omega-3 fatty acids – so they offer similar anti-inflammatory effects that can benefit your joints. Chia seeds also have a significant amount of calcium — 8 percent of your daily needs per tablespoon — to support strong bones. Use flaxseeds to add texture to your favorite baked goods, snack on whole-wheat toast topped with walnut butter, or blend chia or flax into smoothies to boost the joint-friendly benefits.
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Daily Habits for Healthy Living
Stay Moderately Active
Safe, moderate activity like walking can go a long way toward minimizing discomfort. . Exercise is considered the most effective lifestyle treatment for reducing uncomfortable joints , advises the Arthritis Foundation. It can also help manage joint issues related to old injuries, repetitive motion, aging and inactivity. For improved motion and muscle ease, practice gentle stretching daily. To keep excess pounds from straining your body, engage in low-impact aerobic exercises, such as walking or swimming most days. Such activity can also reduce fatigue and improve overall circulation. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or about 30 minutes per day, five times per week.
The foods you eat can play a significant role in pain symptoms. While some foods, such as added sugars, fried foods and red meat, can increase pain and inflammation, foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains can have the opposite effect. To ease pain, the Cleveland Clinic recommends eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables — ideally eight to nine servings — daily. Choose whole grains, such as brown rice and oats, over processed equivalents, such as instant rice and puffed wheat. For protein, go for fish, legumes or low-fat dairy products instead of bacon, sausage or steak.
Breathe and Meditate
Meditation is an umbrella term for mind-body practices that pair contemplative thought and relaxation for a range of benefits, including minimized pain. Meditation can help reduce pain by lowering its intensity, moderating its cycles and keeping it from intruding as much in your life, says Dr. Steven Rosenzweig, an emergency medicine doctor and researcher at Drexel University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. To gain these benefits, sit in stillness for 10 to 30 minutes daily, focusing on slow, relaxed breathing. You can also try a guided meditation, using an app or CD, or a beginner's yoga class.
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Discover Surprising Foods That Cause Inflammation
Sure, you already know that ultra-processed packaged foods and drive-through fare contribute to inflammation. But what about seemingly healthy — or actually healthy foods — that are high in pro-inflammatory nutrients? Watch out for these hidden inflammation triggers and make simple substitutions to lower your inflammation levels.
Yogurt works well in a weight loss diet — it's generally filling, high in protein and a great source of calcium and vitamin D. But most of the options in the yogurt aisle actually contribute to inflammation. Flavored yogurts come packed with added sugar, which triggers the release of chemicals called cytokines that increase your inflammation levels. The solution? Buy plain, unsweetened yogurt and add natural sweetness with whole, cut up or pureed fruit. You'll still get a flavorful meal, but you'll skip the added sugar — as well as the preservatives, flavorings or coloring found in some yogurt varieties.
Chicken and Turkey Breast
Sure, chicken and turkey breast offers several health benefits, from high-quality protein to iron for healthy blood flow. But they also contain omega-6 fatty acids. While omega-6s aren't inherently harmful, eating too much omega-6 fat and too little omega-3 fat increases your risk of inflammatory diseases, including heart disease. You don't need to cut out chicken or turkey entirely — just switch out a couple portions each week in favor of omega-3-rich foods like salmon. When you do serve chicken or turkey, remove the skin and trim away any visible fat, which will limit your omega-6 fatty acid intake.
Granola products might seem healthy, but they have the potential to increase inflammation. They're often sweetened with pro-inflammatory sugar or with so-called healthy sweeteners like agave, which still increase inflammation. And granolas made with certain oils — like sunflower or corn oils — are also high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can disrupt your omega-6 to omega-3 intake ratio. Avoid store-bought granola and make your own muesli at home — simply toast plain rolled oats and chopped walnuts, then mix with unsweetened dried fruit for a healthy — and less inflammatory — granola substitute.
Certain Whole Grains
You already know you need to limit processed carbs, like white bread. But certain whole grains — including whole wheat, rye and barley — might also increase inflammation. That's because they contain gluten, a protein that triggers pro-inflammatory signals in some people. Consider cutting out gluten-containing grains for a week or two and opt for gluten-free ones — like quinoa, amaranth and brown rice — to see if you might have gluten sensitivity. Or consult a doctor, who can run tests to give you definitive answer.
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Discover Easy Tips for a Healthier Morning
While some health gurus are up at the crack of dawn for a lengthy wellness routine, you don't need to be a morning person to start your day on the right note. A simple routine in the morning won't take much time, but it will set the tone for the rest of the day so you can continue to make healthy choices. Incorporate these easy strategies into your daily plan and you'll feel more energized all day.
Avoid the Snooze Button
While it might be tempting to get a few more minutes' rest, you should avoid hitting the snooze button as much as possible. That extra 10-minute sleep won't actually make you feel well-rested — it's not long enough to get quality sleep — and it just increases your time crunch in the morning, upping your stress levels. Instead, set a reasonable wake time and stick to it, so that you have time for the other healthy habits in your morning routine. Combat tiredness by going to bed 30 minutes to an hour earlier the night before — chances are, if you're hitting the snooze button daily, you're not allowing enough time for sleep.
Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Breakfast
You already know breakfast is the most important meal of the day — but what you choose for breakfast is important, too. Avoid sugary or processed foods — like store-bought breakfast bars, fast food fare or sugary cereal — and instead make your own breakfast rich in anti-inflammatory ingredients. Include fish, walnuts or flaxseeds in your breakfast — like topping a slice of toast with salmon salad or serving oatmeal with walnuts and berries. The omega-3 fatty acids found in these foods naturally combat inflammation, which improves joint health. Make sure you include fruits and veggies in your breakfast, too — they're packed with vitamin C, which has natural anti-inflammatory properties.
Hydrate for Good Health
Boost your health by drinking a glass or two of water with your healthy breakfast. Because you aren't taking in fluids overnight, you naturally wake up dehydrated — especially during the cooler months when the air is drier or if you live in a hot, dry climate. That dehydration can actually make you feel more fatigued, reports Tufts University. Hydration is also key for healthy joints — your joints rely on fluid to move smoothly, and drinking water helps replenish those fluid levels.
If you don't like plain water, add sliced strawberries, grapefruit or orange slices to it. Fill up a large water bottle so you can sip throughout the day, too.
Get Moving (Even a Little)
A little activity in the morning gets your heart pumping, which helps you feel alert and ready to take on the day. You don't need to schedule an hour-long gym session, though — unless you want to. A simple walk around the block wakes you up, loosens up your muscles and joints, and even burns a few extra calories to help with weight control. Just make sure you wear supportive footwear on your walk — like running or walking shoes — to support your joints as you get active.
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Discover the Best Foods to Help You Sleep Better
Sleep is a crucial but often overlooked part of a healthy lifestyle. Getting quality ZZZs each night helps manage stress hormone levels, gives your body the rest it needs for tissue and cell repair, and even boosts your mood to enhance your sense of well-being. What you eat can affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep — try these healthy foods to get quality slumber.
Cherries and Cherry Juice
Sip a glass of cherry juice or snack on a bowl of cherries in the evening to help improve your sleep. Cherries serve as a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that naturally controls your sleep-wake cycle. Drinking cherry juice — especially tart cherry juice — boosts your melatonin levels, reports a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2012. Those who drank cherry juice not only slept longer, but were also able to fall asleep more easily. Which makes cherry juice — or lemonade mixed with cherry juice — a great pre-bedtime snack if you’re prone to tossing and turning all night.
Good news — satisfying a carb craving in the evening can actually help you get to sleep. As long as you pick the right carbs, that is, reports a study published in PLoS One in 2014. The study authors analyzed the diets of almost 2,000 adults to see how different carbs — rice, bread and noodles — were associated with sleep quality. The researchers found that eating rice was linked to better-quality sleep, while eating noodles correlated with lower-quality sleep, and bread had no significant effect. So if you often enjoy a carb-heavy noodle dinner, going for a rice-based meal instead might help you catch some ZZZs.
The old adage that a glass of warm milk will help you sleep actually has some science behind it. Milk — and other healthy dairy products, like yogurt — serve as great sources of calcium, a nutrient important for good sleeping, found a 2014 study published in the Journal of Sleep Research. The study authors looked at the diets and sleep habits of about 4,500 people and found that those who got less calcium in their diet had significantly more trouble falling asleep at night. Drinking 8 ounces of milk, which contains just short of one-third of your daily calcium needs for the day, is a great way to ensure you’re getting enough calcium — and enough sleep.
TSatisfy a crunch craving and get a good night’s sleep with Brazil nuts. They’re packed with selenium — another nutrient important for good sleep, according to the Journal of Sleep Research study. In fact, Brazil nuts are the best source of selenium, and even a single kernel will give you all the selenium you need for the day. Just watch your portion size — stick to just 1 to 2 kernels for your nightly snack, since overeating Brazil nuts can mean you’ll actually get too much selenium.
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Discover the Benefits of a Walking Club
Walking does your mind, body and bones good. Add the social interaction a club offers, and you'll benefit that much more. For maximum health perks from moderate-intensity exercise, aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes per week. If large chunks of time aren't manageable, start with 10-minute increments.
Improved Health and Fitness
Walking gets your blood flowing, improving circulation and benefiting your cardiovascular system. Walking is easy on your joints compared to high-impact activities and helps reduce bone loss; injuries are also less likely. Additionally, strengthening muscles around joints through walking can help support joints.
Walking can physiologically improve your mood, reports the Arthritis Foundation. The socialization involved with walking in a group can have a beneficial impact as well. An analysis of 42 studies on the advantages of walking groups in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that people who participate in such groups not only show greater cardiovascular health than those who don't, but also demonstrate fewer symptoms of depression. Spending time in nature as you walk might heighten these perks. Don’t forget the social interaction that a walking club offers as well. This is not only an opportunity to improve your health, but to also strengthen your relationships and maybe even form new ones.
More Restful Sleep
Exercise can help you sleep better at night by increasing body temperature and reducing anxiety and depression — both of which can make sleep difficult. A study published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment in 2015 showed that counseling sessions paired with routine walking improved sleep in people with insomnia.
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5 Stretches to Regain Hip Mobility
As the largest set of joints in your body, healthy hips are key to good health and your overall alignment. Poor hip mobility can negatively affect your alignment — causing everything from chronic headaches to foot pain — and also shifts your posture, affecting the way you look. These gentle stretches will help you gain hip mobility by releasing the muscles surrounding your hips. Just check with your doctor before attempting a new stretching routine — he/she can recommend any modifications, if needed.
Reclined Butterfly Pose
This gentle stretch releases the muscles in your groin and along the front of your hips — and as a bonus, it’s relaxing, too. Start by lying on your back with your legs bent and your feet on the floor, with a pillow underneath your mid and upper back for support. Keeping your feet together, allow your knees to fold outward toward the ground, opening like a book until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 60 to 90 seconds — or even longer if it feels comfortable.
Seated Butterfly Pose
Seated butterfly pose — also called bound angle pose — allows you to release muscles in your groin and along the front of your hips, as well as the muscles on the back and sides of your hips. Start by sitting cross-legged on the floor — sitting on a pillow for support, if needed. Place your feet together and press your knees toward the floor until you feel a gentle stretch. Keeping your back straight, gently fold forward over your legs until you feel a stretch at the sides of your hips. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
A restorative yoga staple, pigeon pose releases the muscles along your outer thigh and the back and sides of your hips. Start on all fours lining up your shoulders over your hands, then tuck your toes under and straighten your legs so your body resembles the shape of a plank of wood. This is known as plank pose. Bring one knee forward, toward your hand. Rotate your leg outward and bend your knee as you lower your body to the ground, so you're sitting with one leg in front of you — bent so your shin is perpendicular to your chest — and one leg stretched out behind you. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat on the other side. If you need a deeper stretch, fold your body forward over your bent leg — you'll feel a more intense stretch in your outer hip.
Seated Hip and Hamstring Stretch
If you have tight hips and postural imbalances, chances are you have tight hamstrings, too. This stretch allows you to boost hip mobility as well as release tight hamstrings, which can improve your hip alignment. Start by sitting cross-legged on the floor, with a pillow under your hips for support, if needed. Straighten your left leg, keeping your right leg bent and the sole of your right foot pressed against your left inner thigh. Keeping your back straight, gently fold forward over your left leg until you feel a stretch in your left hamstring and right outer thigh. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
If you work an office job, the keeling lunge will be your best friend. It stretches out your hip flexors — the powerful muscles along the front of your hips, which are often tight in people who sit during the day. Start in a kneeling position on the ground, with a folded towel or blanket under your knees for support as needed. Step forward with your left leg to put one foot on the ground, with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your back straight and your chest lifted, gently lean into the lunge until you feel a stretch on the front of your right hip. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
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How a Mediterranean Diet Helps Arthritis
Eating like people who live in the Mediterranean may make managing arthritis easier by reducing inflammation, enhancing weight control and promoting overall wellness. To reap these potential perks, focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, legumes, seeds, nuts and spices. Eat fish twice per week and moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt daily, while limiting or avoiding red meat. Before making major lifestyle changes, seek approval from your doctor or dietitian.
Arthritis is an inflammatory condition, so foods that help reduce inflammation in the body could reduce your symptoms, such as joint pain. Foods a Mediterranean-style diet emphasizes — including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and fish — are all options. This approach also limits foods that increase inflammation, such as fatty meats. In a study published in Blood Journal in 2014, the blood and diets of more than 14,000 adults were analyzed. Participants who ate a Mediterranean diet showed significantly fewer markers of inflammation in their blood than those who didn't.
Less Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress means you have an imbalance of toxins known as free radicals in your body and your body's ability to get rid of or counteract them. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, common in a Mediterranean diet, can improve this imbalance, according to research summarized in Studies on Arthritis and Joint Disorders in 2012. This is important because oxidative stress is linked to the worsening of arthritis. Vitamin C-rich foods include bell peppers, citrus fruits, cooked broccoli and Brussels sprouts, and strawberries. For plenty of vitamin E, include nuts, seeds and plant oils, such as wheat germ and sunflower, in your diet. For more antioxidants overall, eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
Improved Weight Control
Maintaining a healthy body weight can help manage arthritis pain by reducing strain caused by excess pounds on your joints. An analysis of 16 studies published in Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders in 2011 found that a Mediterranean diet may be helpful in reducing body weight, especially when you keep overall caloric intake in check, exercise regularly and stick to the plan for longer than six months. Fiber-rich foods in the lifestyle, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, promote appetite control, making overeating less likely.
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5 Spices That Fight Inflammation
Whether you're trying to improve your joints or just overall health, herbs and spices are your best friends. They're a great way to add virtually calorie-free flavor to your meals, and they're naturally sugar-free. Most spices are also free of salt, so they can help you stick to a low-sodium diet. Certain spices also have anti-inflammatory properties that make them especially helpful for your joints. Try these five inflammation fighters — your joints will thank you.
This pantry staple isn't just naturally sweet; it's also a powerful anti-inflammatory. In fact, in a study of 115 foods, cinnamon was identified as one of the top inflammation fighters, according to a 2015 paper published in Food & Function. Sprinkle this sweet stuff over your oatmeal or cereal, blend it into a fruit smoothie — it works especially well with banana smoothies to create a "banana bread"-like flavor — or use it as part of a spice rub for meats.
Ginger's natural spice can warm you up in the winter months, and it's been used for centuries as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. As the subject of frequent study, ginger can also help with knee pain, especially the kind associated with osteoarthritis, reports the American College of Rheumatology. It's also beneficial in reducing post-workout muscle pain, according to a 2010 study in The Journal of Pain.
Use ground ginger in baked goods, like whole-wheat ginger carrot bran muffins or ginger cranberry whole-grain scones, grate fresh ginger to add to your favorite vegetable and chicken soups or steep sliced fresh ginger in hot water for a DIY ginger tea.
Like ginger, turmeric has been used to reduce inflammation in alternative medicine for thousands of years. Its active ingredient, circumin, lowers the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes in your body, which reduces overall inflammation. Use turmeric in Indian curries and daals or add it to chicken soup for earthy flavor.
Spice up your life —it will help fight inflammation. Capsaicin, which is the "spicy" chemical in cayenne, affects pro-inflammatory enzymes, turning them "off" to reduce inflammation. Cayenne has a relatively neutral flavor, so you can add it anywhere you'd like a little fire.
Add it to soups, casseroles, chili and stir-fries, and use it to make spice mixes to season chicken and fish. Or make a healthy spicy cocoa by heating 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk with a tablespoon of raw cacao powder, a sprinkle of cayenne and a few drops of stevia, to taste.
Cloves add a burst of warm, spicy flavor to your meals, and they pair especially well with ginger for a one-two punch of anti-inflammatory spices. Cloves contain a compound called eugenol that prevents the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals, called cytokines.
Normally, cytokines would trigger your immune system and induce inflammation, but by cutting off their release, cloves help keep your level of inflammation in check. Enjoy cloves as part of the spice blend in chai tea, use it alongside ginger in your baked goods or use a spice blend of cloves, cinnamon and anise to flavor mulled cider or unsweetened cranberry juice.
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Winter Activities to Help Keep Joints Healthy
There's nothing like harsh, outside elements to put a dent in your healthy habits — or aggravate existing joint pain. But chilly weather doesn't mean you have to go into hibernation. In fact, winter offers opportunities to try new joint-friendly exercises that will leave you feeling refreshed. Make sure you check with your doctor to make sure it's safe for you to add new exercises to your fitness routine.
Go Winter Walking
That brisk walk around the block doesn’t have to stop when the temperature dips into “chilly” territory — walking outside in the winter is a great way to stay active. You’ll still get all the benefits of regular brisk walking, including better cardiovascular health, an improved mood and better weight control. And, because walking in the snow can feel more challenging than walking in more temperate weather, you might burn extra calories.
Invest in a pair of winter hiking boots before making winter walking part of your routine. The boots will offer more ankle support than regular walking shoes, and they also provide more traction to prevent slips and falls.
If you're itching for a more intense outdoor workout, try snowshoeing. Unlike other winter sports —like cross-country, downhill skiing or snowboarding — snowshoeing doesn’t typically expose your joints to twisting motions, so it might work for you. It does get your heart pumping and benefits your overall health, including your joints.
Choose relatively flat terrain for snowshoeing — this reduces the amount of turning and twisting you'll do and minimizes the impact on your joints compared to going up and down hills.
Escape the Cold With Warm Yoga
Yoga is beneficial any time of year, but its mood-boosting effects make it especially helpful in winter, when you're more likely to feel tired because of lack of sunlight. If you're new to yoga, start off with a gentle hatha or yin yoga class. If you already practice yoga, try a heated class that can warm up your muscles during the cold months.
Just make sure you notify your instructor of any mobility issues or joint pain before class starts — he or she can help you modify poses so they will benefit your joints, not cause pain.
Stay Safe in the Winter
Staying active all year long — including during the winter — is a great way to help keep your joints healthy. But don't push yourself too hard, too fast. During exercise, challenge yourself to try activities you might not have considered otherwise, but don't push yourself to the point of pain or discomfort. Always listen to your body — if something feels wrong, ask a professional for guidance on how to modify the activity so it works for you.
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What Chicken Soup Really Does for the Body
Known as a cure for the soul, chicken soup is credited with alleviating everything from a stuffy nose to flu symptoms, with a healing reputation that spans centuries.
While the soup can bring benefits that support respiratory health, immune function and even bone health, it's by no means a cure-all. For best results, eat chicken soup as part of healthy diet, focusing on ingredients that bring more nutrient bang per bite.
Depending on the ingredients, chicken soup provides an assortment of health-promoting nutrients. One-half cup of broth-based canned chicken and vegetable soup provides more than 150 milligrams of potassium, about 8.5 grams of carbohydrate, more than 3.5 grams of protein and valuable amounts of A and B vitamins.
The potassium, water and sodium contained are important when you're losing fluids as a result of perspiration, vomiting or diarrhea — symptoms that flush your body not only of fluids, but also these nutrients. The antioxidants in the veggies, including vitamins A and C, play an important role in immune function. The vitamin A, sodium, magnesium and modest amounts of calcium support bone health. The carbs and protein are important for staying energized and healing.
Bone Broth and Collagen
Meat stock made from boiling bones in water or "bone broth," has been touted as the latest superfood, but the nutritional value varies depending on the kind and amount of bones used, the length of time it simmers, and other ingredients. This type of concentrated broth contains collagen and other anti-aging and joint-healing nutrients, including glucosamine and chondroitin. While it doesn't contain as much collagen as supplements, your body will still break down the collagen and use its amino acids to strengthen bone, connective tissue, skin or wherever they are needed.
Tips and Tricks
If you wish to benefit from chicken soup, go for homemade or low-sodium varieties — unless you're dehydrated and need additional sodium. Home-prepared chicken stock contains less than half the sodium per cup than canned. For plentiful antioxidants, add diced tomatoes and chopped leafy greens, such as kale, to your soup. For more bone-fortifying nutrients, choose a soup containing ingredients rich in calcium, like creamy chicken soup made with low-fat milk.
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How to Strengthen Hip Muscles to Support Healthy Joints
Your hip muscles move your thighs in six main directions -- out to the side, in toward your body, forward, backward and rotating in toward and away from your body. Strong hip muscles help you climb stairs, stand up from a chair, walk faster and improve your balance. You don't need fancy equipment to strengthen these muscles. You can perform exercises at home while you watch your favorite TV show. Hold each position for three seconds, then slowly lower to the starting position. Start with 10 repetitions of each exercise and work up to three sets. Rest for at least 30 seconds between sets -- longer if you are new to exercise. Check with your doctor first to ensure hip-strengthening exercises are safe for you.
Hip Abduction and Adduction
Strengthen the muscles that move your legs out to the side -- the abductors -- while lying on your side. Keeping your legs lined up with each other, lift the top leg toward the ceiling, hold for a few seconds, and then lower it. Keep your toes pointed forward to work the correct muscles.
Adductor muscles move your thighs in toward your body. Remain lying on your side, but exercise your bottom leg. Bend the knee of your top leg and rest your foot on the floor in front of your bottom knee. Lift your bottom knee toward the ceiling.
Hip Flexion and Extension
Hip flexor muscles move your thighs forward. Strengthen these muscles while lying on your back. To protect your back, bend one knee and rest the foot of that leg on the ground. Keeping the opposite leg straight, lift it toward the ceiling. Keep your toes pointed straight up to work the correct muscles.
Muscles that move your thighs backward are called extensors. Strengthen these muscles while lying on your stomach. Bend one knee and lift your leg as if you are kicking the ceiling. To protect your back, keep your hips on the ground.
Hip Rotation Inward
Your hip rotates inward and outward. Strengthen the muscles that perform these movements while lying on your side. Place a pillow between your thighs. Lie on your left side to exercise the muscles that rotate your right hip inward. Bend your knees and keep them pressed together throughout this exercise. Bring your right lower leg slightly in from of the left. Keeping your legs together, lift your right ankle up toward the ceiling. Your right knee will turn in toward the pillow as you lift your ankle. Stay centered on your side, without leaning forward or backward as you perform this exercise.
Hip Rotation Outward
To strengthen the muscles that rotate your hips outward, remain on your side and remove the pillow between your knees. Lie on your left side to exercise your left hip. Keeping the right leg straight, bend the left knee, bringing this leg slightly in front of your right leg. Keep your left thigh on the ground and lift the inside of your lower left leg (calf) as far as possible toward the ceiling. Your knee will turn outward as you perform this movement. Stay centered on your side, without leaning forward or backward, throughout this exercise.
Modifications and Tips
As your strength improves, add weight to your ankle to make these exercises more challenging. Buy ankle weights at a sporting goods store or make your own by filling a tube sock with rice or beans. Knot the end of the sock and tie it around your ankle. Move the rice or beans around once you attach the sock to your ankle to evenly distribute the weight. Start with one set of 10 repetitions once you have added the weight.
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What you need to know about Tea & Stiff Joints
You may already be eating salmon and drinking cherry juice to help support your joints, but you might also want to consider adding tea to the mix. Tea, which is the second most common beverage consumed in the world, contains polyphenols that help reduce inflammation and may offer relief from joint pain. If you're taking medication for your joints, consult your doctor before adding tea to your daily routine.
Types of Tea
Although there are a number of different types of tea, unless you're drinking herbal tea, they all come from the same plant. That means green, white, oolong and black tea are all made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. However, each type of tea has its own distinct flavor and polyphenol content. This difference is due to the processing. Green and white tea leaves are picked and then dried, while oolong and black tea leaves are bruised or broken before drying.
Tea and Inflammation
When it comes to reducing joint inflammation, you may be better off drinking the less processed green and white teas due to their higher polyphenol content. A 2015 animal study published in the Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge found that green tea extract was more effective at reducing joint inflammation in rats with rheumatoid arthritis than black tea extract. A 2014 study published in the African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology also found that green tea extract helped reduce inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis in a small group of people. However, large clinical trials are necessary before claims can be made.
To get the most polyphenols in your cup of tea, the Arthritis Foundation suggests steeping it in boiled water for five minutes. It's OK if you prefer your tea iced; you'll get the same health benefits. While the polyphenols may help offer some joint relief, blood levels drop two hours after your last sip, says the Arthritis Foundation. Talk to your doctor to help you determine how much tea you should drink throughout the day to aid in joint stiffness.
Things to Consider
While tea is considered a safe beverage, it may not be right for everyone. Tea is a natural source of caffeine, so if you're sensitive to the stimulant, you may want to use the decaf varieties. Also, green tea may alter the effectiveness of the blood-thinning medication warfarin, and you should not add the polyphenol-rich tea to your diet before consulting your doctor.
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7 Dynamic Stretches to Support Hip Mobility
You might already know that stretching is important for improving joint mobility. However, dynamic stretching -- moving while you stretch rather than holding one position -- also increases blood flow to your muscles, preparing them for activity. Hold dynamic stretches for two to three seconds each and do them as a number of repetitions or for a set amount of time. Before you try these stretches, check with your doctor to make sure they are safe for you.
Standing Leg Swings
Standing leg swings improve forward and backward mobility at the hip. This stretch involves standing on one foot while swinging the opposite leg as far forward and backward as possible with the knee straight. You should feel this stretch along the back of the thigh as the leg swings forward and along the front of the thigh as the leg swings backward. Perform this stretch again on the opposite leg.
Skipping isn't just a grade-school activity. This dynamic stretch improves forward and backward hip mobility. Take a large step forward, hop once on that leg, then step forward with the opposite leg and hop once on this leg. Variations of this stretch include skipping with high knees and lifting your heels behind you to "kick your own butt."
Perform straight-leg kicks, also called Russian kicks, in a standing position. Keep your elbow straight and hold one hand out in front of the body as a target. Kick the other leg forward toward your hand with the knee straight. You should feel this stretch in the back of the leg during this movement. You can do kicks by alternating sides or in sets on one leg before switching to the other side.
Knee-to-chest stretches improve hip mobility. Bend one knee in toward the chest for a few seconds while keeping the opposite leg straight. To increase the amount of stretch, use your arms to pull the knee in closer. Straighten your leg out and pull the opposite knee in. You can also take a step forward as you straighten each leg out.
Alternating Toe Touches
Stretch the muscles along the back of your thighs with alternating toe touches. Stand up and step forward with one foot. Bend at the hips and reach down to touch the toes of the front foot with the opposite hand. Return to a standing position and repeat, putting the other foot forward. Continue the pattern as you walk forward.
To stretch both hips at the same time, try walking lunges. Step forward on one leg from a standing position. Bend both knees at the same time and lower your body to the ground, keeping the upper body straight. The knees should be pointing forward with the front knee centered over your foot throughout this exercise. Once you feel a stretch in the thighs, return to a standing position. Step forward with the other foot and continue the exercise on that side.
Walking Quad Stretch
Your quad muscles are the large muscles running along the front of your thighs. To stretch these muscles, bend one knee and bring your foot toward the buttocks. Grasp your ankle with the hand on the same side and pull it in closer to the body to increase the stretch. After a few seconds, straighten out your knee and take a step forward and repeat with the other leg.
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Learn About Biking For Joints
Think bike-riding is just for kids? Think again. Biking is a great activity for people of any age -- particularly if you want to support your joints. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two and a half hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity -- such as biking -- as part of a healthy lifestyle. Because biking is a low-impact activity, it is also recommended for people who have hip or knee difficulties. As with any new activity, talk to your doctor to make sure biking is safe for you.
Occasional stiffness can develop in your leg joints, particularly if you spend a lot of your day sitting. The CDC states that people with arthritic conditions need to stay active, and biking is one of the safest and most effective types of activity for people. Biking helps maintain range of motion in your hips, knees and ankles, improving your flexibility.
Strong muscles help keep your joints healthy. According to a study published in 2011 by the "Journal of Aging Research," strong muscles reduce the amount of stress on your joints. Biking strengthens muscles in your hips, knees and ankles without the added pressure of supporting your body weight. To further challenge your leg muscles, try biking uphill.
Cartilage provides padding between the bones in your joints. The fluid that lubricates your joints also brings nutrients to your cartilage and removes waste products. When your joints are resting, your cartilage absorbs this fluid like a sponge. During physical activity, fluid is squeezed out of the sponge, removing waste products from your joints. Biking circulates fluid through your knee joints to promote cartilage health.
Excess body weight can damage your joints. Over time, this added joint pressure can contribute to breakdown of the cartilage between your bones -- particularly in your knees. Combined with a healthy diet, biking can help you lose weight, decreasing strain on your joints.
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The Five Best Foods You Aren't Eating
Some foods are better for you than others, a simple truth that anyone health-conscious already knows. Yet, you might be surprised to find that some of the healthiest are common, familiar items. They're as close as the nearest supermarket, ready to improve your daily diet at a moment's notice.
If you only see oats in your granola bars or an occasional cookie, you're missing out. They're loaded with vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy oils, but their biggest health benefits might come from fiber. Oats are an outstanding source of both insoluble and soluble fiber. The soluble fiber is especially important. It helps you feel full for longer, can lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, and may protect against Type 2 diabetes.
They're easy to incorporate into your breakfast routine or your favorite baked goods, but don't stop there. Add a handful of quick oats to your favorite smoothie to make it more nutritious and satisfying. Use whole oat groats in place of rice in your favorite pilaf or coarse steel-cut oats to make risotto.
Trendy kale gets all the love from chefs and foodies alike, but cabbage — its unglamorous cousin — deserves the same kind of respect. Its mild, sweet leaves are high in fiber and vitamin C, and complex sulfur-based compounds such as sulforaphane, which might help protect against some cancers. Green cabbage is higher in vitamin K, while red cabbage is higher in vitamin A. Red cabbage's color comes from pigments called anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants in their own right.
Use whole leaves as wrappers for whole grains or other healthy fillings, or incorporate shredded cabbage into your favorite stir-fries. Use crisp, fresh slaw as a tangy topping for grilled salmon, or in chicken breast wraps.
Walnuts to Ward off Diabetes
Okay, most people eat nuts occasionally in the form of baked goods or salted treats. That's a start, but you should be eating them — especially walnuts — more often. Walnuts are packed with protein, vitamins, dietary fiber and minerals, as well as heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Numerous clinical studies have linked walnuts to reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, and they may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Sprinkle your salads with toasted walnut halves or coarse pieces instead of croutons, or scatter a few across your morning cereal. A small handful of freshly toasted walnuts is a healthy alternative to other crunchy snacks while you're catching up on your favorite shows.
Everybody knows beans are healthy — they're on the original, official list of "superfoods" — but all that soaking and long cooking makes them inconvenient when you're time-challenged. That's where lentils come in. Like beans, they're a nutritional powerhouse, loaded with protein, fiber, B vitamins and iron. As with beans and oats, their soluble fiber is especially important. It helps you feel full for longer, and helps moderate both blood sugar and cholesterol.
The difference is that lentils are the "fast food" of the legume world. They cook in minutes, rather than hours, and don't need soaking. They make hearty stews and side dishes all on their own, or you can add a handful to your rice cooker along with the rice to form a complete protein.
Those uninviting little fish are among the best sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Even better, they're low enough on the food chain for mercury contamination to be a non-issue. Sardines are a potent source of B-vitamins and minerals, as well as vitamins A and D. In short, they're a concentrated way to add the benefits of fish to your diet.
Sardines can stand up to robust flavors, so let your imagination loose. Pair them with ripe or sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, thin-sliced onion, olives or pungent cheeses to make Mediterranean-influenced lunches or appetizers.
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Summer Activities to Help Keep Joints Healthy
Summertime brings warmer weather and longer days, along with more activities to keep your joints healthy. Water activities, walking, cycling, tennis, golf and yoga increase blood flow and bring nutrients to your joints. Remember to talk to your doctor before beginning any activity -- particularly if you have joint concerns. Once you have the green light, step out of your comfort zone and try something new!
Water activities are the highlight of summer for many people. Swimming incorporates most joints of the body, giving you more bang for your buck. Even if you can't swim, you can still experience the benefits of water exercise. Water aerobics and water-walking strengthen the joints in your lower body while decreasing the amount of body weight on these joints. This is particularly good for people with arthritis or other lower-extremity injuries. For example, exercising in waist-deep water decreases pressure on your leg joints by 50 percent. Water exercise also helps keep you cool during the hot summer months.
Walking and Cycling
Walking is an easy summer activity that requires only a good pair of shoes. This activity supports joint health by strengthening bones and muscles in your legs. Cartilage -- padding between the bones in your joints -- also gains strength as it is compressed and decompressed as you move your joints. Cycling is an alternate activity that reduces strain on your leg joints while providing movement at each of these joints. This activity may also be a better option if you have painful leg joints.
Tennis and Golf
Sports such as tennis and golf help maintain joint health in the summer. Tennis offers the added benefit of improving your endurance and heart health. The intensity of this activity can be adjusted by playing doubles tennis. Golf improves flexibility of the joints in your arms and fingers as well as your legs if you walk the course rather than driving a cart. Use caution when performing these activities. They can make existing joint pain worse and increase your risk of falls. If these activities are new to you, consult your doctor to be sure they are safe for you – otherwise, enjoy!
Yoga is an activity that can be performed outdoors in the summer using a small mat. You can do yoga virtually anywhere you can find a flat surface. Gentle yoga poses incorporate your whole body while slowly moving your joints in multiple directions. This improves flexibility and range of motion in these joints. Yoga also strengthens the muscles around your joints, making them more stable. To reduce strain on your joints, poses can be adapted using blocks, chairs and straps. Seek proper instruction before you attempt this activity.
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The Five Types of Joints
Daily activities that you may take for granted – walking, taking a shower, driving – all require your joints to function correctly. Joints are formed where two or more bones come together in your body. Cartilage provides cushioning between these bones, and synovial fluid within the joints allows the bones to move freely. There are five main types of movable joints in your body – ball and socket, ellipsoidal, hinge, pivot, and saddle joints.
Ball and Socket
Ball and socket joints are made up of a circular, rounded end of one bone that meets a concave, cup-like surface of another bone. Of the five types of movable joints, ball and socket joints allow the most movement. These joints – including your hips and shoulders -- allow your legs and arms to move forward, backward, and side to side, and to rotate inward and outward. Ball and socket joints are surrounded by a capsule – a thin, fluid-filled sac that helps keep the ball in the socket as you move. Bands of connective tissue, called ligaments, also attach the bones to each other. Ball and socket joints allow you to do activities like reaching to put on your seatbelt.
Ellipsoidal joints, also called condyloid joints, are also made up of a rounded bone that meets the concave surface of another bone. However, the rounded bone is oval-shaped and the joint does not rotate. Your wrist joint is an ellipsoidal joint, allowing it to bend forward, backward, and side to side – movements used throughout your daily activities. Ligaments also help keep the bones in proper position as you move.
Hinge joints function like a door hinge, swinging in two directions to allow the joint to bend and straighten. Your knee joints – the largest movable joints in your body -- as well as your ankle and elbow joints are hinges. Cartilage covers the ends of the bones in hinge joints, providing a smooth surface for the bones to move across. These joints are also supported by ligaments. Your knee swings in a hinging motion as you kick a ball.
Pivot joints are formed when the concave surface of one bone fits around another bone. These joints allow rotation of a body part. The joint between the top two bones in your spine is a pivot joint. This allows you to turn your head right and left. Another pivot joint is formed by two forearm bones just below your elbow. These joints allow you to rotate your hands into palm-up and palm-down positions. This movement occurs when you turn a doorknob.
Saddle joints are named for their shape – one bone forms a saddle shape, while the other bone is the "rider," sitting in the saddle. The joints where your thumbs join your wrists are saddle joints. These joints allow you to bring your thumb across your hand – a movement necessary for most activities that require you to use your hands.
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How To Get Stronger Knee Joints: What You Need To Know
Your knees are the largest joints in your body, supporting the weight of your body as you move around. Keeping your knee joints strong not only makes daily activities easier -- it may also reduce your risk of injury. Regular exercise will improve the strength of your knee joints. The best part? You don't have to live in a gym to get these results.
- Use It or Lose It: Whether you know it or not, you may already be doing activities that can strengthen your knee joints. Walking is an easy way to add knee strengthening into your day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy adults should get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, each week. You can break this time up into 10 minute increments to incorporate activity into your daily life more easily. Incorporate a walk into your lunch break, or take one in the evening to unwind after a busy day. Add more steps into your day by parking a little further away from buildings or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
- What if It Hurts to Walk? Knees are subject to wear and tear. Cartilage -- the padding between the bones in your knee -- can become thin, leading to pain when you walk. If walking causes pain, there are other ways you can exercise to strengthen your knee joints. Activities such as biking or using a recumbent stepper machine allow you to strengthen muscles in your knees without the added pressure of your body weight. Swimming and pool-walking provide another avenue for knee-strengthening exercise while reducing pressure on these joints.
- Weight Training: Weight-training isn't just for body builders! These exercises target specific muscles around your knee joints, strengthening your legs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends muscle-strengthening activities for healthy adults, targeting all major muscle groups, two or more days per week. Weight-training exercises such as knee extensions and hamstring curls are often performed in a gym setting using exercise machines. Consult your doctor to make sure your knee joints are healthy enough for this type of exercise.
- Body-Weight Exercise: Strength training can be performed without equipment, using your body weight as resistance. Exercises such as squats strengthen your knees, helping you stand up from a chair and pick objects up from the floor. Stair climbing for exercise also uses body weight as resistance to strengthen knee muscles. As an added bonus, these exercises also help tone your backside.
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3 ways to maintain healthy joints
Make 2015 your year to shine! Our 3-part regimen and Action Plan will help you become more active and healthy. Plus, you’ll earn bonus points just by reading about it!
While many of us are focused on matters of the heart this month, we’re focusing on another part of the body; our joints. Like a broken heart, joint discomfort can keep us from doing the things we want to do. Taking care of your joints is an important part of leading a healthy, happy lifestyle. Making small changes now can help ease discomfort and allow you to be at your best in the future.
Here are 3 tips to try:
Focus on Healthy Choices: Regular physical activity can help manage your weight, improve heart health and in turn, ease joint discomfort. Win, win! But you don’t have to start living at the gym– add more activity by parking further away from buildings or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. And don’t forget about what you’re eating. Adding more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meat and healthy fats into your diet may also lower your cholesterol levels.
Change Your Activity, Change the Way You Feel: Even small changes in the way you perform daily activities can make a big improvement in joint discomfort. Whenever possible, avoid activities that make your symptoms worse. Here are some ways to take some of the pressure off your joints:
Take frequent breaks to allow your joints to rest.
Alternate the tasks that mainly involve your larger joints – such as lifting, squatting and bending, with activities that involve smaller joints, such as typing or writing.
Use pens with a larger barrel to reduce strain on hand muscles.
Whenever possible, use larger joints to perform daily tasks to protect smaller joints and help prevent discomfort. For example, when you’re lugging those heavy grocery bags to the car, carry them with your forearm rather than gripping the handles of the bag. This will shift the workload from the small joints in your hand to your larger elbow joint. Use a step-ladder to avoid reaching overhead, or sit on a small stool while gardening to avoid bending over. Simple changes can make you feel more comfortable and keep your joints happy.
Feeling Stiff? Focus on Reducing Pain: Joint discomfort may be worse in the evenings, especially if you’ve been running around all day. Applying heat to the affected joint will increase blood flow and improve your ability to move the joint. You can make a quick and easy hot pack by pouring 2 pounds of dry rice into a long tube sock. Knot the end of the sock and microwave for 30 seconds. Place a towel between the sock and your skin to prevent burns. Heat is typically applied for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, no more than once an hour. If you experience joint discomfort in the morning, consider starting your day with a warm shower.
Finally, remember to listen to your body. Joint pain and stiffness can be a sign of more serious joint damage. If your pain continues to worsen, or you find that you are losing your ability to move a joint, seek medical attention.
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3 Ways To Take Care of Your Joints in 2015
Taking MoveFree® or Schiff® Glucosamine is a great first step toward supporting your joint health but there is even more you can do to complement your routine, such as exercising and staying at a healthy weight. Start today by following this 3-part regimen:
Exercise: Add joint health to the list of benefits your body receives from practicing regular physical activity. Besides being good for your general wellbeing, exercise strengthens the muscles and ligaments surrounding your joints, helps circulate nutrients into the joints and activates genes associated
with rebuilding cartilage, a building block of healthy joints.
On the other hand, inactivity leads to reduced joint motion, decreased flexibility and muscle weakness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic exercise—such as swimming, biking or brisk walking—five days a week, along with two days a week of muscle strengthening activity. If 30 minutes seems like too much at one time, try breaking it into three 10-minute segments. Whatever gets you up and moving is well worth it, so switch up your activities to work all your muscle groups and stay motivated!
Our Action Plan Can Help! When you’re tired or busy, it’s all too easy to skip your workout. Plus you may worry that exercise will hurt your joints. Interestingly, the exact opposite is true—exercise actually diminishes discomfort as long as you don’t overdo it. Our Move Free Action Plan will help you figure out how to schedule exercise into your morning or evening routine, whether you do it all at once or fit in small segments throughout the day. Once you get in the habit of exercising and notice how good it makes you feel, it’s likely to become something you actually look forward to doing.
Weight Management: Did you know that every extra pound puts about 3-5 pounds of additional pressure on your knees? That’s a heavy burden on your joints! And in a recent survey from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 58% of adults who were 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight reported suffering from joint discomfort*. Maintaining a healthy number on the scale is key for reducing stress on weight-bearing joints and improving your long-term joint health. Read More
One way to eat right is to include plenty of fish in your diet, especially those highest in omega-3 fatty acids. The majority of Americans don’t get enough of these healthy fats on a regular basis and your body doesn’t efficiently produce them. Salmon is an especially good source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been studied for many benefits including joint health, heart health and brain health. Our Bourbon-Glazed Salmon is an easy and delicious addition to your menu repertoire.
Supplements: Supplements are the foundation of a healthy joint care regime. Keep these tips in mind to optimize your results:
Establish a routine, such as taking your supplements with breakfast, so it’s easy to remember to take your MoveFree® or Schiff® Glucosamine every day. MoveFree® Ultra makes your routine even easier with just 1 small pill per day. Continue taking your supplements even as you begin feeling better. Comfort and flexibility are signs that your new joint regimen is working, but your joints will still continue to experience everyday wear and tear. Supporting your joints is a long-term investment in your health.
Resolve to Make 2015 Your Healthiest Year Ever
By following this 3-part regimen one day at a time you’ll be well on the road to an active, healthy New Year. And your joints will thank you every step of the way!
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The Top 10 Gifts for your Joints
Give Your Joints The Gift of Good Health. Your joints literally do all of the heavy lifting in your life. So do something nice for them this holiday! Simple changes in the ways you eat, exercise and manage discomfort can help you stay mobile, active and comfortable. Here are 10 ways to show your appreciation to your hardworking joints.
Work in more workouts. Read More
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to support healthy joints, strengthen muscles and increase flexibility. Be sure to warm up first, and avoid “pounding” exercises like kickboxing or step aerobics in favor of low-impact activities such as swimming, biking and walking.
Maintain a healthy weight. Read More
Losing just 10 pounds can lower your risk of knee problems by 50%. And because of the way weight is distributed, this relieves the equivalent of 40 pounds of pressure on your knees. To get started, switch to a smaller plate size, reduce portions and fill up with lots of healthy fruits, veggies and fiber.
Take supplements. Read More
Take your Move Free® every day to help strengthen, lubricate and preserve your joints. You’ll get the best results by making it part of your daily routine.
Use hot and cold compresses to relieve discomfort. Read More
Heat packs or warm towels can help relieve soreness and stiffness. Applying a cold pack or ice wrapped in a towel to sore joints can also help reduce swelling.
Stretch. Read More
Don’t forget to stretch before you exercise. It improves flexibility and range of motion and warms up your muscles to help avoid injury. Stretch often during the day to ease stiffness from standing or sitting too long in one position.
Stop smoking. Read More
Here’s one more reason to kick the habit: Smoking is not only bad for your lungs and heart; it’s also bad for your joints. Preliminary research indicates smoking may have detrimental effects on your cartilage and bones.
Catch some zzzz’s. Read More
Your body needs quality sleep – 7 to 8 hours every night, according to experts – to recharge and rejuvenate. Try a lumbar pillow and sleep mask to be as comfortable as possible.
Carry packages correctly. Read More
Gifts, groceries, suitcases… there’s a lot to haul around this time of year! Use your largest and strongest joints and muscles to prevent injuries and strain to small joints such as hands and fingers. Bend your knees when lifting something heavy, distribute weight diagonally by choosing a purse with a cross-body strap, carry large bags by hugging them close to your body instead of by the handles, and use cloth grocery bags with long straps that fit over your shoulder – they’re good for your joints and the environment!
Build strong bones. Read More
Did you know that your joints receive their essential nutrients through their adjoining bones? To support bone health, do weight-bearing exercise and boost your calcium intake with foods such as milk, yogurt, spinach, kale and salmon. For extra insurance, add supplements containing calcium, boron and Vitamin D.
Eat more fish. Read More
The research is in: omega-3 fatty acids, abundant in coldwater fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, can help keep your joints healthy and reduce discomfort. Eat fish several times a week to get the most benefit.
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3 Ways to Support Your Whole Body
While you may be especially focused on joint health these days, it’s important to support your immune, digestive and heart health systems as part of your overall health regimen.
According to the FDA, Americans often don’t get enough Vitamin C, dietary fiber and other essential nutrients. Since it can be challenging to meet all your needs from food alone, supplements are a good way to help support your overall health.
Good health is linked to a healthy immune system: the cells, tissues and organs that guard against foreign invaders that can damage your body. This natural defense system helps prevent bacteria, viruses, toxins and parasites from entering your body; produces white blood cells and other chemicals to fight the ones that sneak in; and helps recognize pathogens for faster responses to future attacks.
Not getting enough sleep, stress, poor eating habits and inactivity can tax your immune system and make you more vulnerable.
The Role of Vitamin C:
Along with a balanced diet, exercise, sleep, good hygiene and stress management, you can help support immune health by making sure you get enough Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid. Read More
This water-soluble nutrient is found in colorful fruits and vegetables such as oranges, peppers, peaches, pineapple, broccoli and tomatoes.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. These unstable molecules occur normally in the body but can be limited with antioxidant intake. Stress, poor eating habits, exposure to smoke and air pollution are a few things that can increase free radicals, possibly to levels that exceed the body’s ability to regulate free radicals, allowing them to start chain reactions that disrupt or destroy healthy cells.
Your body is not able to make – or store – Vitamin C, so it’s important to include plenty of Vitamin C-containing foods in your daily diet. The USDA recommends a minimum of 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Since most Americans don’t eat nearly enough fruits and vegetables, supplements are a good way to help meet this goal.
Many common digestive issues such as indigestion, diarrhea or constipation can be avoided by taking time to chew and digest food properly, getting enough fiber, drinking enough water, eating foods that aren’t overly heavy or greasy, and other good habits. It’s important to keep your digestive tract healthy because it is where vitamins, minerals and nutrients are absorbed, providing nutrition and energy to fuel your body. It’s also home to 70% of your immune system.
How Probiotics Can Help:
A healthy digestive tract is necessary to help defend against harmful bacteria, toxins, and chemicals. When it’s not functioning properly, you’re more susceptible to allergic reactions, digestive upset and other issues. Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria found in the gut, and are important for digestive health. Your immune system can also benefit from these good bacteria. Look for fermented foods such as yogurt, buttermilk and kefir that contain active cultures and supplements containing live probiotics.
Heart disease is a serious matter but there’s a lot you can do to reduce your risk, even if you’re older. Modifying your diet, quitting smoking, watching your weight, exercising and lowering blood pressure can help keep your heart strong and healthy for years to come.
Omega 3s: The Right Kind of Fat:
You may have heard that eating less fat is good for your heart. That’s only partly true. Fats are an essential part of our diet. Eating the right kinds of fats, like omega-3 fatty acids found in oily/fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel is important for heart health. Krill oil supplements are another great source of omega-3s. It is also important to avoid saturated and partially hydrogenated fats as much as possible. Read More
Omega-3s keep cell membranes healthy by making them more pliable, for healthy circulation.
Two types of omega-3 fatty acids, known as DHA and EPA, may also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Omega-3s can also help balance some of the negative impact of omega-6 fatty acids.
The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week. If you’re not eating that much, supplement with a quality product such as krill oil that contains DHA and EPA.
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Five Ways to Cope When You Need Extra Help!
Exercise, weight control and supplements are the key building blocks of a successful long-term joint health regimen. But they all take time before you see results. For instance, you won’t become fit or lose ten pounds overnight! Similarly, the ingredients in Move Free work steadily to help build, protect and strengthen cartilage, the tough connective tissue that cushions your joints.
As you continue to build stronger joints, you may need extra help for occasional discomfort. Here are five tools to help you cope.
Why does it hurt? The aches and soreness you feel in your joints are the result of signals sent from your brain. Over-the counter and prescription medications interfere with these messages to ease discomfort. Read More
Pain messages are transmitted from your brain through a complex system of signaling. Medications such acetaminophen and aspirin typically work by either blocking these messages before they start, or by preventing your body from producing certain chemicals that cause pain. If you need to take a pain reliever, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) recommends acetaminophen (Tylenol), which is believed to block signaling in the brain itself.
Other options include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen sodium (Aleve), which block the production of inflammatory proteins called prostaglandins. However, prostaglandins also have a positive side: they protect the stomach lining from harsh digestive fluid. Long-term use of NSAIDs may increase the risk of developing gastrointestinal problems and other issues. Your doctor may also prescribe an opiate, muscle relaxer or other medicine.
When taking medicine, it’s prudent to take only the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time. And never mix medications – even those sold over the counter – without first talking to your doctor. Since dietary supplements work differently than pain relievers, please consult your healthcare provider regarding using the two together.
Rubs, Creams and Ointments:
Can you rub away soreness and stiffness? Topical products can provide targeted relief for problem areas and are available in a variety of formulas containing different active ingredients. Read More
You’ll find many products at your pharmacy, each containing different active ingredients. Topical salicylates (a compound related to aspirin) and NSAIDs penetrate the skin barrier to deliver pain relief and decrease prostaglandins. Others include ingredients such as capsaicin, an analgesic derived from the natural heat component in chili peppers. Capsaicin products, found in drug stores under a variety of brand names, reduce certain signaling mechanisms and trigger the release of feel-good endorphins.
Another group of products, called counter-irritants, help relieve discomfort by creating sensations of coolness or heat. Ingredients such as camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol are found in products such as Icy Hot. And for a convenient, no-mess way to target relief, try a topical analgesic patch. These self-adhesive patches provide heating or cooling sensations, or both.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS):
These small, portable units send a mild current to interrupt pain signaling. They’re available in drug stores under various brand names. Read More
TENS uses electrodes placed on the skin to send mild electrical current to areas such as the hips or knees. This is believed to keep pain messages from reaching the brain. The electrical current may also cause the brain to release endorphins. It’s important to note that these shouldn’t be used if you have a pacemaker.
Your doctor may recommend steroid or hyaluronic injections to relieve knee discomfort. Steroid injections (cortisone shots) reduce inflammation, while hyaluronic acid may improve damaged cartilage. Read More
Steroid injection (“cortisone shot”): To reduce inflammation a doctor injects a steroid or corticosteroid (synthetic versions of the hormone cortisol) directly into the joint. The ACR recommends these injections as an alternate therapy for patients with moderate to severe knee discomfort who do not get relief from acetaminophen. Shots may be repeated a few times a year.
Hyaluronic acid injection: A series of injections of hyaluronic acid, a component of natural cartilage, may improve damaged cartilage in the knees, though studies are not conclusive
Acupuncture – a form of traditional Chinese medicine – has been practiced for centuries to isolate and address specific problem areas. Read More
In this centuries-old technique, thin sharp needles are painlessly inserted at specific points on your body. Modern clinical studies have demonstrated small but significant improvement following acupuncture sessions.
Continue your joint health regimen
Don’t let occasional issues discourage you! Continue to exercise and make healthy food choices, and keep taking your supplements even if you’re taking pain relievers. This will help you achieve – and maintain – your joint health goals.
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Make The Most Of The Great Outdoors!
Have you been cooped up all winter? Inactivity can cause joints to stiffen up and weaken adjoining tissues. Right now, warm temperatures, longer days and abundant sunshine make this the perfect time to get outside and get active. Current guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes (2 ½; hours) a week of moderate activity such as brisk walking, combined with at least 2 days of muscle strengthening exercise to improve mobility and bone density.
So, whether this summer you’d like to join a walking group in your neighborhood, camp out under the stars after a day of fishing or hiking nature trails, or improve your balance and flexibility by practicing yoga in a serene setting, below are 3 suggestions for enjoying your summer while making sure your joints stay active.
RV Summer Getaways.
Did you know there are about 6000 public campgrounds in the US? Many are situated near breathtakingly beautiful mountain hiking trails, shimmering lakes, and other inspiring places to walk, go horseback riding or enjoy a variety of water sports. According to Recreation Vehicle Industry Association estimates, nearly 9 million people own an RV. If you’re one of them, take advantage of the summer season and explore some top-rated parks and companies across the country. If you’re 62 or older, a $10 Lifetime Pass gives you access to more than 2,000 parks, wildlife refuges and forests. Find out more at any federal recreation site or nps.com
Pampering yourself - and your joints – doesn’t have to cost a fortune! We’ve found some retreats in the US that specialize in healthy eating and joint-friendly activities such as daily hikes at the appropriate fitness level, yoga and meditation to help relieve stress, improve your range of motion and encourage overall wellbeing. One of these resorts may be just the outdoor escape you’re looking for this summer.
Explore Your Community.
Sometimes the best way to explore your surroundings is to stay right in the neighborhood! Check out online groups like Fitness Meetup Groups, FitLink or ExerciseFriends.com. Your local gym or YMCA/YWCA can be another great place to participate in joint-friendly activities that match your fitness level. Or join a friend and take a spin around your local park, school stadium or track. With a good pair of trainers and pedometer, aim to walk 10,000 steps a day (about 5 miles) to help strengthen your joints, minimize discomfort and maximize mobility.
For a longer adventure, organize a walking trip of your own at one of our country’s1000+ national recreation trails, including historic and scenic trails. Find one in your neck of the woods!
Scientific research confirms that staying active is one of the most important ways you can care for your joints. Whatever activities you choose, make this a joint-healthy summer to remember!
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Popular destinations for RV Campgrounds and Wellness or Yoga Retreats
Here is a list of some popular destinations for RV Campgrounds and Wellness or Yoga Retreats
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Make Your Move, Reach Your Goals!
Do you want to fight joint discomfort and feel better than you have in years? Of course you do! And we’re here to tell you: you CAN do it! How do we know? You’ve already taken the first step towards supporting your joint health by joining the Move Free Rewards program, and now it’s time to up your fitness game and start building stronger joints and muscles.
Prepare to be challenged.
We’re going to challenge you to make a commitment to being the best “you” possible. Of course, nothing worthwhile is easy, but we’ll help you set goals and stay on track with the Move Free Action Plan worksheet. After all, who deserves it more than YOU, right? So keep reading and let’s get to it.
No more excuses!
When you’re tired or busy, it’s all too easy to put exercise on the back burner. You may worry that exercise will hurt your joints. Or you can’t imagine how you can make time for it. But it’s really important to work out. A key benefit of exercise is that it actually supports joint comfort!* Our Move Free Action Plan will help you figure out how you can fit exercise into your morning or evening routine – whether it’s all at once or small segments throughout the day. Once you get in the habit, it’s likely to become something you look forward to.
Plan with confidence.
Even with the best intentions, it’s not enough to have a general goal of becoming more fit. You’ll need to take specific steps, including setting a time limit and deciding how to measure success, in order to make it happen. If you’ve got any doubt, take a moment to try this confidence-building exercise:
- Think of 3 challenges you’ve already had in your life. They can be big or small, such as:
- Changing jobs
- Moving somewhere new
- Giving a speech in front of a big crowd
Even trying a new recipe or completing a do-it-yourself project can seem challenging at first, but you’ve probably tackled at least one successfully.
Now, think of 3 ways you met each of those challenges. Chances are you made new friends; you learned how to get around; you delivered your speech successfully; and so on.
Remember how it got easier the longer you dealt with the challenge. It’s going to be the same with your new fitness goal!
What’s your motivation?
Is there something special you’ve always wanted to do? Why wait? Pick a reason to become more fit – and start planning to meet that challenge 3 to 6 months or more from now. Maybe you’ve imagined taking your grandkids on a Disney vacation. Or joining your friends for a charity walk or mini-marathon. Or celebrating your wedding anniversary hiking through a spectacular rainforest. Looking forward to a specific event gives you the motivation to keep making healthy choices every single day:
Go after it!
Great, you know what you’re working towards. Now you need to keep it front and center with three simple steps:
- Get into a routine: Decide on the habits you need to adopt -- and schedule them into your daily routine to guarantee that you achieve your goal. According to research, it takes 66 days for an activity to become a habit. Exercising at the same time every day will soon feel as natural as brushing your teeth.
- Tell the world: Once you’ve made the commitment, go public. Tell your friends, family, or post it on social media. Make sure to surround yourself with supportive, encouraging people and avoid the “negative Nancy’s” who can drag you down. If you’ve signed up for a race, charity walk, or other event, put copies of the notice on your fridge, bathroom mirror, or computer. An invitation or photo can also be a potent reminder of the reason you’re making a change. Set milestones along the way, and reward yourself as you reach them.
- Remember your end goal: No matter what the challenge is, you can either give up or conquer. Arm yourself with reminders of your past success, whether a motivating mantra, a trophy, or meaningful photos. And really LOOK at them to continually reinforce the fact that you are a winner through and through! Stay focused on your end goal – it will help keep you motivated any time you’re tempted to quit.
Get started! Redeem for your Move Free Action Plan to get started:
- Identify your goal (3 to 6 months or more in the future) and put it on your calendar
- Start planning the steps you need to reach your goal:
And most important, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!
- Stock the fridge with healthy foods
- Figure out your best time to exercise, and break it into smaller chunks of time, if necessary
- Get the right equipment
- Reward yourself as you meet interim goals (perhaps a pedicure after you lose those first 5 pounds or new headphones when you’ve built up to an hour of daily exercise)
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How Weight Loss Helps Your Joints
Maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce discomfort and increase long-term joint health. Here's how extra pounds affect your body and your joints.
Reduces the stress on your joints.
Every pound of extra weight increases the pressure placed on your knees, hips and ankles with each step you take. With normal walking, your joints are impacted by about 3 to 5 times your body weight so even 10 pounds of extra body weight act like an extra 30 pounds of pressure - or more - on your knees and hips. Under this pressure, knee cartilage can break down. And without a thick cushioning of cartilage, your bones are more likely to rub against each other, causing discomfort and bone damage over time.
Helps prevent inflammation.
Scientists believe that joint problems are most likely caused by a combination of increased force on individual joints and factors within your body. Research shows that fat cells create and release proteins that promote inflammation throughout the body. This contributes to many types of tissue degradation including cartilage destruction. Your body needs fat cells. But too many may lead to damage in your joints so maintaining a healthy weight helps keep your body in balance.
Helps you avoid or postpone surgery.
Staying at a healthy weight can also help you avoid or bounce back faster from joint surgery. Research shows that overweight patients often have hip and knee replacements at younger ages than those at a healthy weight. Surgery in overweight patients is more complicated, too, often requiring longer periods of anesthesia and operating time. If you do need surgery, you'll heal faster if you're in good shape.
Makes it easier to be more active.
If you have joint issues, staying physically active is key to getting better. Click here to learn why. But being overweight can restrict your range of motion and put more strain on your back and knees, making movement uncomfortable. That in turn makes it harder to sustain physical activity. Start with moderate activity such as taking a daily walk to build up your stamina. As you become more active you’ll increase your ability to bend, stretch and burn fat.
Lowers your risk of future joint problems.
Maintaining a healthy weight can make a major difference to future joint health. Women who lost 11 pounds cut their risk of developing joint issues by 50%, say researchers at Johns Hopkins Institute. And heavier people often experience problems much earlier than those at a healthier weight.
One study found that the risk of developing knee problems would drop 21.4% in overweight and obese men if they lost a significant amount of weight. For women, joint issues would decrease by 33% if they lost weight.
Remember: As you lose weight, you can gain healthier joints for years to come!
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How Exercise Helps Your Joints
Physical activity helps people with joint issues reduce discomfort and increase range of motion. Here’s how it works in your body and your joints.
Synovial fluid lubricates the joint. The joint is surrounded by soft tissue called the synovial membrane, which produces a fluid that acts like oil in an engine, allowing your bones to move more smoothly. Physical activity encourages the circulation of the fluid, says Susan Sterling, an instructor at the Cooper Institute in Dallas.
Blood flow increases. Exercise gets the heart pumping, which increases blood circulation throughout your body – including your joints. As a result, the synovial membrane is exposed to a steady supply of nourishing oxygen and nutrients.
Nutrients circulate to the joint. The weight that bears down on your joints forces water molecules out of the cartilage like a sponge. When the weight is lifted, the water molecules return, bringing oxygen and nutrients the joints need, says John Hardin, MD, a professor of medicine and orthopedic surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and vice president of research for the Arthritis Foundation.
Joint-repair genes are switched on. Scientists aren’t entirely clear about how genes play a role in joint repair, but research shows that joint movement activates genes associated with rebuilding cartilage. Overdoing exercise can have the opposite effect, though, so listen to your body.
Cellular waste is removed. Exercise triggers a biological process called autophagy, where damaged cells in the joint are broken down and removed. "It's basically like taking out the trash," explains Dr. Hardin.
Muscle is built. "Exercise strengthens the muscles, ligaments and tendons surrounding the joints," says Sterling. “When these tissues are strong, they act like a brace to protect the joint,” and lessen pressure on weakened joints. —Sharon Liao
Copyright © 2014 Arthritis Foundation. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this topic visit www.arthritis.org.
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How Aging Affects Your Joints
Did you know that joint changes are a natural part of getting older? Read on to
learn what’s happening and what you can do about it.
Your body has more than 200 joints, ranging from the small ones in your fingers
to large joints such as your knees. Simply put, a joint is the place where two
bones meet. Synovial Joints (including the knee, hip, and shoulder) are
surrounded by collagen, have an inner membrane that secretes a lubricating
fluid, and contain cartilage, which pads the ends of the bones. Each of these
components is susceptible to aging.
Joint issues affect millions of Americans, but few people know that, aging
causes wear and tear on our joints that can lead to joint discomfort. While
wrinkles and gray hair may indicate aging on the outside, your joints show the
passage of time on the inside. So what drives this joint discomfort over time?
Cartilage, your natural shock absorber: In normal, healthy joints, a smooth layer of cartilage cushions the bones in your joints, allowing them to glide over each other easily. This firm, rubbery tissue is composed of about 85% water and 15% collagen and other proteins. As you get older, this water content can decline to about 70%, resulting in less effective cushioning. The cartilage in our joints can also breakdown with age. As the cartilage breaks down, it becomes more rough and thins, and can eventually result in your bones rubbing together, leading to joint discomfort.
Synovial Fluid: Like oil in your car, synovial fluid lubricates your joints for smooth movement. Healthy joint fluid contains high amounts of large hyaluronic acid molecules, which naturally cushion your joints and other tissues. With age, the size of the hyaluronic acid molecules in your joints decreases inhibiting its ability to support cushioning and lubrication.
Collagen: This protein is a natural part of your connective tissue, and is found in your cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bones as well as your skin. Collagen fibers keep your skeletal system flexible, but collagen levels in the body start to decline after about age 25. These declines can cause cartilage to become less flexible and more brittle over time.
Inactivity and excess bodyweight can intensify the natural wear and tear
process on your joints. Every extra pound of bodyweight exerts four times more
pressure on your knees, which support your entire body. In addition, inactivity
leads to reduced joint motion, decreased flexibility and muscle weakness, all
important functions for healthy joints. The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention recommend 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic exercise—such
as brisk walking—five days a week, along with two days a week of muscle
strengthening activity. If 30 minutes seems like too much at one time, try
breaking it into three 10-minute segments. Whatever gets you up and moving is
well worth it!
And now that you know the in’s and out’s of what’s happening to your joints, click here to find out which Move Free® product is best for you.
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