Spring has sprung! It’s officially time to dust off the runners and get out in the great outdoors once more. Ideally, you’ll have kept active all throughout winter, however if you fell off the wagon, spring is a great time to hit reset on your exercise routine and set some new goals.
Getting active outdoors is a great way to make the most of this season. You might notice that you are able to walk outside for longer than you can on a treadmill, and research backs this up. We are more likely to feel engaged with our environment and therefore spend a little more time outside than in a gym, particularly if the surrounds are beautiful (like being near the sea or some botanical gardens).
At a cellular level, your body loves being in nature too. Spending time outside lowers stress levels, which in turn protects many systems of the body – particularly the heart and blood vessels, as well as general inflammation. Try using your lunch break as an opportunity to get out and walk in a local park, or catch up with the family in a new location in nature. If winter has left you with a few more kilograms than you would like, remember that excess weight can directly impact joint pain and inflammation, so it’s a great time to get moving again.
A great exercise if you are experiencing joint pain or stiffness is cycling. Riding a bike is fantastic for getting fit and healthy, without putting too much impact or load on the body. Nothing beats a family bike ride for combining health and quality time! If you get stiffness or pain in your fingers and wrists, consider some gloves to keep them nice and warm while the legs are pedaling along.
If you are struggling to find inspiration in spring, think about how you’d like to feel when summer rolls around and work backwards from there. This is where a S.M.A.R.T goal can help get you motivated – you could even stick it up on the fridge with some photos which make you happy (an upcoming holiday, family and friends, your pet who would love to go walking with you). Here is an example of a S.M.A.R.T goal in preparation for summer:
Specific: I want to increase my fitness through walking
Measurable: Walking a lap of the local park (3km)
Attainable: I will build up each week until I reach 3km
Relevant: Regular walking keeps my weight under control and helps my joint pain
Time-bound: The first day of summer
We can then go one step further and turn this into a S.M.A.R.T statement. For this activity, imagine yourself at the timeframe you have set, speaking as though it has all come true. The above goal would then become: “It is the first day of summer (December 1st). I have built up my fitness and can now walk a lap of the local park. This has kept my weight at a healthy level and helps with my joint pain. I feel great!”
Many people are afraid of writing down their S.M.A.R.T goal because they are afraid of failure. The reality is, by writing it down, our mind starts to shift towards opportunities to reach this goal, and in fact, you are likely to surpass this goal and need to set a new one! Now that is motivating.
The knees are hinge joints, meaning that they can bend and extend. They have the important role of carrying us around all day, so it’s understandable that they can get a little sore from time to time! The actual joint itself is the meeting place of the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone), with the patella (kneecap) sitting inside the tendon at the front.
It’s not just bone in there though - there are structures in the knee joint such as menisci(shock absorbers) and ligaments (like sticky tape) to increase stability and allow you to move with ease.
Of all the research out there, the strongest predictor of good outcomes for sore knees is long term adherence to lifestyle changes - picking something and sticking to it. Having said that, improvements in strength and function have been found from just one month of an exercise program.
How movement can help:
Looking after your knees is no easy feat, however research has shown that the following factors can prevent future problems:
- Watching your weight: Just 1kg of weight loss results in a 4kg decrease in force within the knee joint.
- Strengthening your legs: Having weak muscles in the thighs is especially associated with the onset of osteoarthritis in the knees.
- Staying aerobically fit: If you can walk, continue to walk. Studies have shown that regular walking reduces pain and increases knee function.
- Moving regularly: Motion is like lotion for the joints, keeping them moving smoothly.
Finding low-impact ways to be active, even when you are in a little bit of pain, actually assists your joints in the long term! And if you're looking for an anti-inflammatory to help you keep moving comfortably, we suggest taking Nageze Joint Pain daily to ease inflammation and swelling.
Before you start: For each of the following exercises, ensure that your body is nice and warm (for example, after a hot shower) or after placing heat packs on your knees for at least 10 minutes.
1. Cycling (exercise bike or pedal exerciser); building up 5 minutes at a time to 30 minutes.
2. Seated knee straightens; 2 x 10 on each side with 3 second hold at the end of each.
3. Seated knee bends; 2 x 10 on each side.
4. Rising from a chair; 2 x 10.
5. Leg straighten and lifts; 2 x 10.
6. Band leg press; 2 x 10.
7. Rising from a chair with one foot forward 3 x 10.
8. Standing knee straightens with band; 3 x 10.
9. Air squats; 3 x 10.
About the Author: Jennifer Smallridge
Jennifer is a highly qualified Exercise Physiologist (Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science and Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology). Her broad experience in the industry spans private practice, hospitals and community health; developing special interests in cardiovascular physiology, weight loss, joint pathologies, neurological conditions and chronic pain. In addition to her role as an exercise physiologist, Jennifer is an academic lecturer in the fields of Exercise Science, Human Anatomy and Physical Activity for Health. She is also a keen exerciser herself, and keeps fit through strength training, yoga, Pilates, dancing and cycling.