It’s an accepted fact of life that as we age, our bodies will start to break down in one way or another. And one of the most common ways our body deteriorates is in aching and poorly functioning joints. They get stiff as our muscles tighten, they hurt as our joints get brittle, and our overall range of motion slowly dwindles over time while cartilage wears thinner and thinner.
In industrialized nations where the average person works a sedentary job for most of the week, about 60% to 70% of adults are estimated to live with chronic pain. This is a reminder that chronic pain doesn’t have to be automatic as we age, it simply comes depending on our way of life. If you’re lucky, this won’t happen until well into your later years. If you’re smart, you’ll take action early to prevent it by supporting and building stronger joints over time. Because as it turns out, there are minor and somewhat simple tasks you can take on with dedication and discipline to keep moving as freely and with as little pain as possible throughout life.
Lose the Shoes
There’s solid science behind the barefoot movement as well as the “minimalist” shoe movement. Our feet weren’t designed to operate with soles underneath them and not being barefoot can actually create massive shifts in how pressure is applied throughout our body and into our spine. Cushioned heels shorten your Achilles tendon and change the alignment of the ankle. From there, our calves are shortened, knees bend forward ever so slightly to compensate for that change. That shift pulls on the quadriceps which then pulls on the hamstrings, so on and so forth.
It obviously doesn’t seem like shoes would have such a profound impact on our body, but considering we weren’t designed for shoes yet most of us wear them all day and every day, it’s easy to see that these small changes are not actually so small.
Now this one should be a little more obvious. Studies show that sitting reduces blood flow and shortens your tendons and ligaments, putting more stress on joints when you do move. This is what we owe the popularity of the standing desk to, as the hips, knees, and lower back are impacted the most by sitting at a desk day after day. If that’s not an option, what you can do is set aside time to get up from that desk and…
Walking actually supports the flow of nutrients through joints like your ankles and knees. This is a use it or lose it situation, where movement and use actually increase functionality. So it’s a strong case for taking the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator, walking to the store down the street instead of driving, or just simply setting aside time specifically for relaxing walks.
Stretching is one of the best surefire ways to keep everything working as it’s supposed to. Muscles tighten up and can get stiff when we sleep at night, which is exactly why we tend to be so sore when we wake up in the morning. Whether you exercise often or are sedentary most of the day, you’re likely to experience this, so waking up and stretching or rolling out your muscles is one of the best habits you can commit to.