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Exercise is fantastic not only for improving your fitness, burning fat and building muscle, but also for strengthening your joints. You need to be performing the right types of exercise though, and avoiding the ones that make your joint issues worse.

We’ve all heard the excuses:

“I can’t train because I’ve got a bad hip.”

“My dodgy knees mean I can’t squat.”

“I gave up exercising because my joints were hurting.”

Clearly there are certain situations in which training can be extremely painful on your joints and where an injury, mobility issue or degenerative condition can mean that you genuinely can’t train. However, in 99.9 percent of cases, exercise can improve your joint worries.

You’re well aware of the numerous health benefits training has – it improves your fitness, lowers your blood pressure and levels of bad cholesterol, reduces your risk of heart disease and strokes, shreds fat, which can lower your risk of cancer and diabetes, builds muscle mass and generally makes you stronger, fitter and sexier.

However, some exercises can cause a lot of stress on your joints.

Running for instance is a high-impact form of cardiovascular exercise. It’s tremendously popular and one of the most common ways people choose to get fit. After all, running is free, you can do it anytime, anywhere, and provided you have a tee shirt, some shorts and a pair of running shoes, you don’t need any fancy equipment or an expensive gym membership.

Unfortunately though, running is not kind on your joints. Every stride you take creates a huge amount of force that travels through your foot and ankle, up your shins, into your knees, and along through your hips and even up your spine.

The younger you are, the lighter you are and the better your technique, the less this will affect you. However for a 250 pound, 50 year old male with poor running technique, the amount of impact will be far higher and potentially far more detrimental than it would be for an 18 year old guy, weighing 140 pounds who has been running cross country most of his life.

This isn’t meant to single out running as the ultimate in joint-destroying exercises. Jumping rope can have a similar impact and can playing competitive, fast-paced sports that involve quick turns and changes of direction such as basketball or soccer. Even some of your gym work can cause joint stress, which is once again exacerbated if your technique isn’t up to par.

While you may think that your thrice weekly runs, trips to the gym and weekend games of flag football or tag rugby are doing you the world of good, they could be having the opposite effect, at least where your joints are concerned.

What Can I do?

By now you’re probably feeling quite disheartened and wondering what on earth you can do to get fitter, healthier, stronger and leaner without destroying your joints in the process.

The main key is to use good technique with whatever activity you’re doing, first and foremost. In almost every case, you’ll rarely get injured if you’re using perfect technique. Secondly, you’ve got to choose exercises that are right for you.

Running can be fine, but it’s likely not a good choice if you’re overweight or haven’t trained in years. Likewise swimming, which is often recommended as a low impact, joint-friendly exercise may still give you trouble if you have certain joint mobility or strength issues.

Read on to find out the best methods of joint-friendly training.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • “Joint-Friendly Training”, By Nick Tumminello, Published on January 20, 2009, Accessed on March 16th, 2013, Retrieved from