Despite some pretty common misconceptions, runners and other high-impact athletes aren’t the only people who should be concerned about the health of their joints.
“Too many of us take our joints for granted and don’t pay attention to them until they are screaming at us in pain,” says Dr. James Rippe, world-renowned cardiologist, founder of The Rippe Lifestyle Institute, author of The Joint Health Prescription and editor of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. “There are 143 joints in the human body and we are continuously putting stress on our joints every day by carrying extra weight, practicing poor posture and sitting improperly.”
However, while we should all take measures to keep our joints healthy and strong, Rippe did mention that athletes and exercisers should express a little more concern, especially when it comes to treating injuries properly.
“Many who keep active lifestyles and fitness routines are not properly attending to injuries when they occur, and therefore are setting themselves up for long-term discomfort later in life,” he said.
According to Rippe, the leading cause of joint discomfort for men is “improperly treated sports injuries” and for women it’s being overweight or obese.
“By taking action throughout our lives—starting as early as our thirties—we can help strengthen and lubricate our joints to help support them as we age,” he said.
From nutrition and supplements to footwear and exercise, here’s what Rippe says you should do to keep your joints strong and healthy for life.
The Active Times: Which supplements do you most recommend for protecting and maintaining joint health, and why is supplementation important?
Dr. James Rippe: A supplement I look to regularly and advocate for is Osteo Bi-Flex®, as the full line of Osteo Bi-Flex® joint health supplements provides a range of nourishing joint health ingredients, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, vitamin D3 and collagen. What I’ve found in my more than forty years of practicing medicine and helping patients commit to fitness regimens, is that people do not get enough ingredients like glucosamine and collagen in their natural diets to help support joint health.
By incorporating a balance of healthy food in our diet and taking daily supplements such as, Osteo Bi-Flex® EASE which provides nourishing ingredients like collagen and vitamin D3, we are helping to support joint function and mobility as we age. Taking joint health supplements as part of a daily routine starting early in life, may help strengthen and lubricate our joints as we continue to practice healthy, active lifestyles well into our twilight years.
Are there any foods that runners and athletes should eat more of that will provide them with key nutrients or minerals that are important for joint health?
As I mentioned before, the commitment to supplementation is essential, as people do not get enough ingredients like glucosamine and collagen in their natural diets to help support joint health. However, there are some foods like garlic, tomatoes, shell fish, fatty fish (like tuna) and leafy green vegetables that contain glucosamine and collagen—but again, with supplementation we know exactly how much of each ingredient we’re getting per serving, whereas with food, we do not.
Aside from nutrition, what are some other things that runners and athletes can do to protect their joints, particularly their knees?
It’s a common belief that the best medicine for a stressed joint is rest. The reality is that joints thrive on movement, so it’s important that we remain safely active and keep joints moving, even when they are overworked.
Additionally, most of us have the mentality that waiting until our joints are bothering us is the right time to take action. Not true. By taking action throughout our lives we can help strengthen our joints and potentially save ourselves from years of daily discomfort. Simply put, stay active and nourish your body properly.
What type of footwear do you most recommend for protecting joint health?
There are multiple types of footwear to help support joints—however, there is not one shoe that is right for everyone. When it comes to selecting the right pair of shoes for individual joint support, there are a few options, one being stability shoes. When looking for stability shoes, choose ones that have a cushioned midsole and heel to help absorb shock and prevent feet from rolling inward. However, stability shoes aren’t necessarily the right fit for everyone, as those that are prone to knee discomfort may feel an increased load on knees.
In addition, runners may want to consider wearing heavy, cushioned shoes while training and reserve lightweight flats for races/marathons. I also recommend those that have joint discomfort, to stretch regularly and to walk around the house barefoot. Multiple studies have shown that being active while barefoot can provide a stronger platform for muscles to absorb shock and better support joints.