Protect and Strengthen Your Knees

One of the most common health concerns for people over 65 is joint problems - mainly knee osteoarthritis. Here are a few ways to ward off or reduce knee problems and pain.

Studies show that adults with knee arthritis who exercise regularly have less pain and disability. Regular exercise is essential to maintaining knee strength. Without it, your muscles weaken, leaving your joints without ample support and leaving your muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and joints vulnerable to misalignment.

In a study of people suffering from knee osteoarthritis, having strong quadriceps (the large muscles on the front of the thigh) protected against cartilage loss at a certain area of the knee called the lateral compartment of the patellofemoral joint. People with the strongest quads reported less knee pain and better physical function than people with the least strength in this muscle.

If you don't already have knee osteoarthritis, another study showed that a relatively small increase in quadriceps strength (20-25%) can lead to a 20-30% decrease in the chance of developing the condition.

The best way to build stamina, strength, and flexibility is through low-impact activities such as yoga, walking, biking, swimming, and weight lifting. These types of exercise can help enhance circulation, improve your range of motion, and build the muscles that surround the knee joints.

Walking backwards is another way to keep moving but take some of the pressure off your knees. Walking in reverse will make your quadriceps muscles contract differently than they do when you're walking forward, creating a movement that's gentler on your anterior cruciate ligament (often injured by athletes) and puts less strain on your patellofemoral joint. Be sure to try it slowly first, in a level, safe and familiar area, and possibly invite a companion "spotter" along. If you do have knee problems, check with your doctor first.

Steer clear of activities that are more likely to cause a knee injury, as injuries double the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Daily moderate exercise – at least 30 minutes a day - is much better for your joints than occasional strenuous exercise. If you haven't been exercising regularly, you should spend several weeks gradually working up to your goal intensity level and duration.

Be sure to warm ups and cool downs before and after exercising, and include stretches of your front and back thigh muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings).

Maintain a Healthy Weight
Your knees bear the brunt of your body weight, so it's crucial that you maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI). Every extra pound you carry adds up to 3 pounds of pressure on your knee joints when you walk, and 10 pounds when you run. In fact, obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for developing osteoarthritis because it speeds the breakdown of cartilage. Dropping extra weight-particularly body fat-may be the single most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of developing a serious knee problem. In a study reviewed by the National Institutes of Health, overweight people who lost an average of 11 pounds cut their risk of osteoarthritis in half.

Avoid Repetitive Strain
While staying active is one of the best things ways to protect your knees, you should avoid repetitive strain on muscles and joints. If you feel pain or discomfort during or after exercise, household chores, or other activities, don't ignore it. Take a break and consider stopping the activity altogether until you can perform it without pain. In the meantime, stay active by focusing on other activities that do not stress the injured joint. If the pain does not go away in two weeks, see your healthcare provider. To help avoid overuse injuries, spend 5-10 minutes warming up before you exercise and another 5-10 minutes cooling down afterward.

Practice Good Posture

If your body is not properly aligned, your muscles, joints, and ligaments take more strain than they should, and can cause pain and damage. Proper alignment begins with good posture, whether you are standing, sitting, walking, running, or lifting.

Here are a few standing posture tips:
• Keep your back straight-don't slump forward at the shoulders or waist
• Keep your knees slightly bent-they should not be locked
• Keep your abdominal muscles tight-suck your stomach in gently
• Keep your head centered over your body-check yourself in the mirror from the side
• Keep your weight evenly distributed between your feet-do not jut one hip out to the side

Wear the Right Shoes
Shoes that cause your body weight to be unevenly distributed place extra stress on your knee joints. Make sure your shoes fit well, especially for exercise such as walking (forwards or backwards!) or running. If you have flat feet, or feet that tend to roll inward, you may want to use shoe inserts, or orthotics, to prevent knee problems.

High-heeled shoes might add to the risk of osteoarthritis or other knee problems. A Harvard University study found that women who wear high heels have stress across the part of the knee where osteoarthritis usually develops.

Consider Specific Supplements for Your Joints
One of the main causes of joint pain is inflammation, which is why nutrients with anti-inflammatory properties such as Indian frankincense (boswellia serrata), sour cherry fruit, vitamin C and turmeric root extract may help ease the pain. Other nutrients, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, have also been shown to reduce joint pain and help regenerate joint tissue.

Joint Support has been formulated with these and other ingredients to help your body maintain joint tissue, keep your joints nourished, and help your knees, as well as your other joints, move more easily