6 moves to tone your joint muscles
The right workout can help ease your joint woes. Here are six moves to tone the muscles around your knees, hips and shoulders
Exercise can actually ease joint woes. How so? There's good and bad joint stress, says Chantal Donnelly, a physiotherapist and the creator of two DVDs with a focus on joints (Strong Knees and Pain-Free at Work). "Good stress promotes bone growth and muscle strength. Bad stress taxes the joints and can cause degeneration."
Dr. Joanne Homik, an associate professor in the division of rheumatology at the University of Alberta and the chair of the Arthritis Society's medical advisory committee, explains that exercise helps protect joints by strengthening the muscles around them. It also helps lubricate joints by enhancing the flow of synovial fluid in and out of the cartilage like a dense sponge, keeping things working well.
Try this joint-friendly routine-designed by Donnelly-for stronger knees, hips and shoulders. (If you have chronic joint pain, consult with your doctor about the best exercises for you.)
How to get started
Equipment: A mat or towel, a sturdy chair and a couple of two-pound hand weights.
1. March in place for three minutes.
2. Stand straight with feet hip-width apart and hands on thighs; circle knees five times clockwise, then reverse.
3. Hinge forward from hips, with back straight, abs tight and knees bent. Dangle arms toward the floor; roll shoulders five times clockwise, then reverse.
4. Lie face up, knees to chest, hands on shins; rotate hips five times clockwise, then reverse.
How often: Complete two sets of the following six exercises, working up to three sets as you get stronger. Do this routine three times a week on non-consecutive days, stretching targeted muscles afterwards.
1. Knees: Bent-knee chair bridges
A. Place a sturdy chair in front of you and lie on the floor with your arms at your sides and your heels on the chair's seat. Bend legs to 90 degrees, aligning knees over hips with ankles and knees touching each other.
B. (Shown) With abs tight, press your heels into the chair as you slowly lift your hips off the floor until knees, hips and shoulders align diagonally. Your head, shoulders and arms should remain on the floor.
C. Hold for three seconds; release. Do 10 reps.
Works: Hamstrings and glutes
2. Knee: Mini step-ups
A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, facing a staircase or a sturdy stepstool. Place your right foot on the first step.
B. (Shown) Raise yourself onto the step by straightening your right leg until it is almost fully extended, as your left foot lifts off the floor. Keep right knee slightly bent to protect the joint and challenge your front thigh muscles.
C. Return to starting position, but keep your right foot on the step. Do 10 reps; switch sides.
3. Hips: Standing ballet extensions
A. Holding on to the back of a chair, stand with both feet turned out slightly and heels together, like a ballet dancer. Bend your right knee, lifting right foot about an inch (2.5 cm) off the floor.
B. (Shown) Keeping right foot turned out and hip bones facing forward, extend right leg behind you until your butt contracts.
C. Hold for three seconds. Do 10 reps; switch sides.
Works: Glutes, sides of thighs and muscles around your hips
4. Hips: Inner thigh bridge on side
A. Lie on your right side with a chair at your feet and your hips aligned one over the other. Place your top (left) leg on the seat of the chair and your bottom (right) leg through the chair's two front legs. Extend your bottom (right) arm under your head, resting the side of your head on that arm.
B. (Shown) Tightening abs, lift your bottom leg up to touch the underside of the chair with the entire side of your bottom foot.
C. Do 10 reps (don't rush); switch sides.
Works: Inner thighs
5. Shoulders: Kneeling plank with backward crawl
A. Get into a bent-knee push-up with your hands aligned under your shoulders and feet in air. (If this feels uncomfortable on your wrists, make fists, placing them against the floor to keep the wrists straight.)
B. (Shown) Tightening abs, extend right arm in front of you, then rotate torso up and to the right, reaching right arm behind you; keep knees on floor. You should feel a stretch on the right side of your chest, right biceps and front of right shoulder.
C. Slowly return to the starting position; alternate sides for 20 reps in total.
Works: Obliques, shoulders, chest and arms
6. Shoulders: Standing clock arms
A. With arms at sides, hold a two-pound weight in each hand with palms facing out. Stand with back to wall, butt and arms touching it and heels two inches (five cm) away from it, knees slightly bent.
B. (Shown) Slide right arm up the wall until hand is aligned over shoulder. Keep butt and arms touching the wall.
C. Slowly lower right arm along wall to starting position; alternate sides for 20 reps in total.
Works: Back and upper-body muscles
More advice for keeping your joints healthy
Whatever your age, Healthy Bones, Muscles & Joints can help you keep your vital support system in top shape. Reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Prevent knee, hip, and back pain. Protect against osteoporosis. Plus, discover ways to safeguard your children's muscle and bone health. With exercises, healthy-eating tips, and practical advice for dozens of specific ailments, this is your feel-good guide to lifelong mobility.