Orthopaedics Surprising Ways Exercise Improves Joint Health By UPMC Orthopaedic Care, March 24, 2017 Stiff joints, strange noises, and decreasing flexibility may seem like normal, even expected parts of aging; however, physical activity like walking, yoga, and weight-bearing exercises can help improve the strength and flexibility of our joints. In fact, activities as simple as brisk walking can improve your joint function and relieve minor pain. Learn more about the connection between exercise and joint health. RELATED: How Much Exercise Do You Really Need? First, What Is a Joint? Simply put, the connection between two bones is called a joint. Joints are supported by muscles and tendons and cushioned by cartilage and synovial fluid. Keeping your joints healthy means keeping your support muscles strong. This helps muscles push fluid through the joint, which keeps cartilage healthy and nourished. Exercise and Joint Health Even if you already have some pain in your knees, hips, shoulders, or back, beginning an exercise regimen can still benefit you. According to Megan Miller, MD, at Tri Rivers Musculoskeletal Centers, one of the most beneficial ways to manage osteoarthritis is exercise. Studies show that exercise can reduce pain and help maintain (or attain) a healthy weight. A healthy weight is crucial for joint health. You should consult your primary care provider to see if you are healthy enough to exercise, but in general, a good mix of the following exercises can be beneficial for joints. Muscle strengthening Strengthening exercises build muscles around joints, adding support to ease the burden on those joints and reduce pain. To get started, try lifting weights, using resistance bands, or attending a group exercise class for strength training. Cardiovascular exercise Cardio exercises are important to your overall health and wellness. These help to improve stamina and energy levels and also help to reduce excess weight. You can get a cardio workout from a variety of activities such as walking, dancing, hiking, basketball, tennis, or swimming. Start at a slower pace and continue to increase the duration and intensity of your cardio workout as you improve over time. Choose an activity that’s enjoyable to keep yourself interested in training. RELATED: Managing Joint Pain in the Winter Balance and flexibility Balance exercises can help prevent falls and flexibility exercises help reduce stiffness. Yoga, Tai Chi, stretching, standing on one foot, walking backwards, or heel and toe walking, can help you develop increased flexibility and balance. To schedule an appointment with one of our orthopaedic experts or to learn more about improving your joint health, call 1-866-987-ORTHO (6784) or submit a form online.