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Bone and Joint Health

by Jamie Lober, Staff Writer; Published Online Nov 24, 2010 | From December 2010 Health&Wellness Magazine

Whether you are getting ready for sports season or trying to stay in shape this winter, it is important to take charge of your bone and joint health. A good way to begin is by understanding the importance of fitness starting at a young age. “We have to start with our children so they can begin now understanding what things they may need to do to impact their health in the future,” said Lavonne White, health promotions coordinator and nurse at Norton Healthcare.

Next, it is time to schedule a visit with your doctor. “Physicians can give you their blessing to play sports based on the numbers and results they get from the physical,” said White. Staying active has been found to make a difference on wellness. “Literature is finding more obesity and high blood pressure and it is related to sedentary lifestyle and diet,” said White.

Females especially should have their bone density screened and their hormone levels checked after menopause because if imbalanced, it can accelerate the process of them losing bone density.In strengthening your bones and joints, incorporate the five components of a workout. “There is warm-up, strength training, cardiovascular training, flexibility training and a cool-down,” said Gail Harned, trainer at Curves.

Strength training, like lifting, helps to maintain bone density. It does not even have to be intense. “It could be as simple as using five pound dumbbells to do upper body exercises,” said Ruben Perez, health educator at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. Since many workouts are designed to strengthen all of the major muscle groups, it is important to finish appropriately.

“We recommend stretching after the workout when the muscles are already warm and more pliable,” said Harned.

When you are flexible, you are better prepared for whatever activity you plan to undertake.Try to be sure your whole body is moving. “If you are only walking, the only muscles and bones that are getting exercise are your leg muscles. Since you are not using your upper body, those bones start deteriorating,” said Perez.

Switch up your routine when you can but remember that beginning only takes one step. “Get started by walking because it will stimulate your bigger bones and muscles like the leg muscles, hip and femur. You will also be maintaining your posture and maintaining the density of your spine,” said Perez. Good nutrition contributes to good bone and joint health. “Make sure you have a balanced diet especially in the calcium content and that you are eating plenty of fruit and vegetables,” said Perez.

Calcium is particularly important for females who experience bone loss due to hormonal changes. “If you do not have a good diet where you are getting your calcium needs and are not doing any exercise to stimulate and maintain bone density, it will start to affect your bones,” said Perez. Sometimes food itself may not be enough. “Doctors recommend that women take calcium supplement in addition to their dietary intake because due to hormone changes they tend to develop osteoporosis or bone weakness,” said Lois Davis, public health nursing manager at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. Remember calcium’s exceptionally important partner. “You need vitamin D in order to absorb the calcium,” said Karen Jones, dietician at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

You should focus on low fat or non-fat dairy products like cottage cheese and yogurt. Some dark green leafy vegetables like bok choy and broccoli are good sources as well. “You can buy calcium-fortified foods or foods that have calcium added to them like cereals, bread, soy beverages, tofu products and calcium-fortified orange juice,” said Jones. If you are lactose intolerant, there are supplements available.

Everyone’s body has different needs. “At http://www.mypyramid.gov, you can click and see what your needs are from each food group and how many servings are recommended,” said Jones.Do not be afraid to alter your activities as you age. “One of the things that do not help the joints in the long-run is high impact because it hurts,” said Perez. With time, the joints deteriorate. “You should get into things like walking, swimming and maybe cycling versus jumping and running in that aspect,” said Perez.

By making a commitment to fitness and maintaining range of motion, you can prevent injuries and look better in general. “Lack of flexibility could affect posture and make you prone to falls and developing spasms,” said Perez.

Keeping your bones and joints healthy should be a priority. “The bones are to sustain our skeleton and posture and the joints help maintain the muscles attached to the bones,” said Perez. That is why the two are usually discussed in combination.

About the Author

Jamie Lober, Staff Writer, Sampler Publications |