How to Keep Joints Healthy As You Age

Taking care of yourself becomes a bit more complicated than it used to be as you age. You have to be more aware of your movements, diet choices, and how your body feels on a daily basis. Over time, your muscles and joints start to atrophy slightly, creating weaker movement and less control than you once had. But what if we told you there are ways for you to combat these natural reactions to keeping your joints healthy, even as you age? 

Of course, you cannot completely prevent your joints from weakening, as this is simply what happens as the body ages. However, that doesn’t mean this should stop you from living your life or enjoying your favorite activities! Here, we’re taking a look at some of the ways you can keep your joints healthy as you get older, helping you stay feeling great even as the birthdays pass. 

Joint Health and Aging

Portrait of caucasian mature woman doing exercise on fitness mat outdoors. Healthy active lifestyle

The relationship between joint health and aging is a somewhat straightforward one: our muscles tend to lose strength, and we have a lower tolerance to exercise and rigorous movement. Usually, this occurs because the actual muscle fibers in your bones begin to shrink or even lower in number, reducing your muscles in size and making it more challenging to have strength. 

Through inactivity, we can also see that, as we age, some of our muscle tissue disappears, getting replaced by more rigid tissue that doesn’t allow for as much movement or — you guessed it — strength. 

In terms of joints specifically, we actually see the loss of fluid through aging. Usually, your joints contain a certain amount of fluid that makes it easy for you to move without pain or disruption. However, as we get older, we lose some of this liquid, and our joints no longer have that lubrication to operate smoothly. Along with this, the cartilage itself gets smaller and creates more brittle bones that tend to be more susceptible to breaking. 

Thus, the older we get, the more difficult it becomes to move appropriately. And, we’re not talking about running a whole marathon, either. If you’re not careful, daily activities like washing your hair or typing on a computer may become stressful on your joints. 

As we mentioned, there are ways for us to combat these age-related changes. Just because most older people struggle to get around does not mean you have to, too. 

Be Aware of Important Signs

Before we talk about the tips and tricks we have for your aging joints, let’s quickly discuss the things you should look out for regarding these age-related changes. If you notice any of these things happening to you, you shouldn’t sweep them under the rug and dismiss them as normal aging. While they are common, these aren’t problems you should have to put up with simply because you’re getting older. 

First and foremost, pay attention to your range of motion each day. Once it’s noticeable that daily movement is stiffer than it used to be, you might be observing some signs of aging. Stiff joints and muscles may be normal for a few days, but these problems shouldn’t linger; if they do, it’s time to make some changes to help keep your joints healthy as you age. 

Along with your range of movement, keeping an eye on strength levels and even balance can be a good indicator of your joint health. Needless to say, you probably won’t be able to lift the same amount you did in college, but you also shouldn’t be struggling to carry backpacks, bags, or groceries, either. When you notice that these everyday items seem much heavier than before, you know that your joints and supporting muscles may require some attention.. 

It is ideal if you don’t wait for these signs to show up before making healthy changes to your lifestyle. For the best results possible, you want to start making these switches now, before you even have to notice your joints getting stiffer. 

5 Essential Tips to Maintain Joint and Muscle Health

So, how is it possible to keep your joints healthy as you age? How can you prevent this stiff movement and lack of strength?

Thankfully, keeping your joints strong as you get older isn’t as difficult as you may imagine. Through simple lifestyle changes and attentiveness, you should be able to combat this muscle atrophy, leaving you feeling great well into your golden years. After all, no one says that getting older means losing your sense of freedom. 

There are myriad ways you can stay on top of your health and ensure that your joints remain strong throughout the years. We have listed below the five most essential tips that we can give people maintain joint and muscle health. These options are all-natural and don’t require any complicated treatments or long days in the doctor’s office. Instead, you can make these changes right from home, each and every day. 

1. Watch Your Weight: The Right Exercise and Diet

One of the best and most obvious ways of keeping your joints healthy over time is by watching your weight. The heavier you are, the more pounds of weight your joints have to support. If you have more body weight than your joints can handle, movement becomes nearly impossible, and your muscles can start atrophying at alarming rates. This makes it tougher to conduct even light exercise the way your body needs, leaving you stagnant and uncomfortable.

Thankfully, if you can learn to watch your weight, regulate what you eat, and incorporate a bit of daily movement, you shouldn’t experience this problem. When you’re at a healthy weight, your body doesn’t have any issue supporting itself, and you’re able to move the way you want to. 

Even if you’ve already gained some weight and notice the effects, that’s okay! Most people over 50 will start experiencing some weight gain despite no signficant changes in exercise or diet. This is mainly due to hormonal changes that occur with aging including a decrease in growth hormone and sex hormones. But, you can lose some weight and regain your joints’ functionality. You just have to be motivated and driven to do it by choosing activities and a healthier diet that you enjoy! Make sure you start with simple, easy-going exercises or movements that aren’t going to strain your body such as walking and cycling  Combine this with light to medium weight resistance training as you start feeling stronger. For men, resistance training (with weights) is especially important for  maintaining higher testosterone levels which in turn can help retain muscle mass and strength.  Equally for men and women, low impact aerobic exercise and light resistance training can help maintain bone and joint health.

While exercising is a great way to lose and maintain your weight, eating well is equally important. Seek a well-balanced diet low in simple carbohydrates, high in protein, naturally occurring fats,  and high in fiber that provides you with the nutrients you need with controlled portions. There is also increasing evidence that polyunsaturated fatty oils such as those derived from processed sunflower, canola and corn may be pro-inflammatory and should be avoided in favor of natural oils such as olive oil. When you have both a healthy diet and an effective exercise routine (no matter how beginner or advanced it may be), you’re giving your body the perfect recipe to slim down and let your joints breathe a bit. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself moving in ways you hadn’t been able to in quite some time. 

2. Ensure Calcium and Vitamin D Intake

Ever since you were a kid, you’ve been told that calcium is great for strong bones. And that’s 100% true! You might have had to drink your milk as a child, but that doesn’t mean your body no longer requires this kind of support. On the contrary, as you age, you should continue to consume healthy amounts of calcium to maintain bone and joint health

When we age, our bones and joints become more susceptible to age-related conditions like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. These conditions can be uncomfortable and hindrances to our daily lives, throwing our routines off significantly. By ensuring to add enough calcium into our diets, you’re giving your bones the added support they may be lacking. Don’t worry if you’re not into drinking glasses of milk anymore! Most forms of absorbable and effective calcium can be sourced from dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt) but also from dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli and fish with digestible bones (eg. sardines and canned salmon). Do your research and find calcium-rich foods that you enjoy. The recommended daily intake of calcium for adults with normal kidney function is at least 1,200 mg per day.

Vitamin D is also a vital component for joint and overall health. Vitamin D has broad health benefits, including boosting the immune system, and providing protection from cardiovascular disease. It is also a key component for helping to absorb calcium from your diet. Together, vitamin D and calcium function to nourish muscles and joints, helping to regain a little bit of strength back in the areas you need most. The minimum recommended dose of Vitamin D is 800 IU per day for adults, with many sources recommending higher doses in northern climates such as Canada, with limited sunlight exposure especially in the winter.

Vitamin D and calcium supplements provide easy ways to fortify what you need on a daily basis. Along with supplements, going outside for some all-natural vitamin D from sunshine exposure is greatly beneficial for both your mind and body. 

3. Regular Movement is Key

Even though it may get more challenging as we get older, getting some regular movement is absolutely crucial in keeping your joints happy and healthy. Inactivity is one of the main reasons for  brittle bones and stiff joints. 

You don’t have to run three miles a day to achieve this! Simple, gentle bouts of movement each day can help prevent muscle atrophy and joint stiffness, allowing you to stay feeling strong and in control. Go out for a daily walk in your neighborhood, around the mall, or take extra time strolling around the grocery store while shopping. Though simple, all of these activities can do wonders for maintaining joint health. 

As mentioned, you shouldn’t push yourself too hard to get daily movement. Only do what your body can handle and listen to how it reacts. If you find yourself being in more pain than anything, it’s time to switch up your routine and find something that works for you. Simply put, find the right combination of gentle movement for your muscles, joints, body, and mind. 

4. Ditch Smoking, Reduce Drinking Alcohol

If you want to prevent your joints from getting stiff and weak as you age, quit smoking! Smoking cigarettes negatively affects practically all aspects of your health, including your bones. Bone density loss is one of the biggest reasons you may find yourself hurting while you get older — your bones are so much more fragile than they used to be. And substances like cigarettes, and even alcohol over-consumption can play a significant part in this.

We know that it’s sometimes easier said than done, but quitting smoking is vital in regaining your health and wellness as you age. When you stop smoking, this allows your body a chance to heal itself, re-regulating the systems that the toxins in cigarettes threw off in the first place. 

Drinking alcohol every once in a while isn’t going to do significant damage to your muscles and joints, but overconsumption definitely can. When you consume more alcohol than your body can handle, you’re placing yourself at higher risk for bone density loss — the same result as if you were smoking cigarettes. Make sure you go to the effort of only enjoying alcohol in moderation if you’re worried about your joint health. 

5. Remember to Drink Water!

Last but not least, don’t forget about drinking water. It may sound silly, but water’s role in keeping your joints and muscles functioning healthily is a large one. Not to mention, water is beneficial to all other components of your body, as well. 

As you age, try cutting out as many sugary drinks as possible and replacing them with water. Soda pop, sports drinks, even certain teas may have more sugar than you realize, damaging your health the more you indulge by causing weight gain and inflammation. Small amounts of these drinks are just fine, but you don’t want to be consuming them more frequently than your water intake. 

Drinking healthy amounts of water provides your joints with the lubrication they need to move flawlessly and give you the range of motion you need. The more dehydrated your body becomes, the more it will start to pull fluid from other places to help lubricate the joints. However, doing this is not suitable for your body, as this water typically comes from your joint cartilage. 

As you hydrate your body, you hydrate your joints as well. When you provide your body with adequate hydration, it will show its appreciation through better movement, comfortability, and muscle strength. 

Maintaining Joint Health At Any Age

No matter how old you are, maintaining your joint health is crucial in helping you feel your best every single day. As you age, you may find that this seems to be tougher than it used to be; however, this doesn’t have to be the case. Through these simple lifestyle changes and a little more self-care, keeping your joints healthy can become an easy, regular part of your daily routine.

Lastly, if you are experiencing increasing chronic pain and muscle loss for unexplained reasons, make sure you consult with your primary healthcare provider (physicians, nurse practitioners) or pharmacist to ensure that any painful symptoms you’re experiencing are not part of anything serious beyond the aging process.