Good, that is to say well-aligned, posture helps maintain a strong, healthy joint structure. Good posture looks and feels great! Good posture means your head (chin in), neck, spine and hips are all in line, shoulders squared and knees relaxed with weight balanced evenly on both feet. Our joints, muscles, ligaments, bones, breathing, circulation and personal appearance benefit. In addition, good posture shouts, ‘confident, capable, wide awake!’. Slumped, slouched, hunched and twisted do none of the aforementioned.
Positioned for protection
Cold, tensed-up joints and muscles are more susceptible to strains and sprains. Ensure you stay warm by wrapping up and treating your feet to comfortable, flat shoes. High heels and ill-fitting shoes throw spines out of line, stretching our ligaments and stressing our joints and muscles.
Our contortions in a chair are many and varied – cast an x-ray eye around any office, train carriage or indeed anywhere people are seated and visualise the twists in some of those spines. Protect against back and neck strain by sitting well back in the chair, lower back and thighs supported with both feet on the floor, keep shoulders well away from ears, and computer/TV screens at eye-level. Modify your adjustable chair to suit you.
Then there’s the Medusa trap… To avoid turning to stone we need to shift position regularly. Wriggle, shake, stand up and stretch to help those joint-supporting muscles and ligaments stay supple, strong and mobile – plus a good stretch restores energy and refreshes our grey matter.
When lying in bed, an aligned, well-supported spine helps keep everything else in position. Are your mattress and pillows keeping you straight? Check the height of your pillows to see whether you need is staying in line with your spine whilst in slumber.
Avoid winter weight-gain and we avoid loading extra stress and strain on weight-bearing joints – every extra pound puts four times extra stress on knees, for example. Choose foods such as lean meat, oily fish, dairy, winter greens and fresh fruit. Together these foods contain a joint-healthy cocktail including: bone-, muscle- and cartilage-building protein; omega-3s, thought to improve blood flow; vitamin C, for cartilage production; bone-strengthening calcium, and vitamin D which together with vitamin K help the body absorb the latter. Drink only two or three cups of tea or coffee per day – excess caffeine may weaken our bones.
Moving right along
Keeping active eases stiff joints, strengthens joint-stabilising muscles, helps prevent bone loss and helps control body weight. Balance low impact aerobic exercise (e.g. swimming or cycling) with Pilates or yoga (for core strength and flexibility) and weight-bearing exercise (e.g. walking or hiking) to increase muscle and bone density.
In cold weather, exercise wearing layers means we start warm but can peel off if necessary. To lower the risk of joint and muscle injury, always warm up: work up gradually over about ten minutes from very gentle exercising to full pitch and, similarly, slow down towards the end.
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan