When runners work to prevent injury, it is often the muscles we think first to protect, stretch and roll out at the end of a long day out on the roads or trails. Though we should always focus on being proactive and protecting our hard-working muscles, there is another part of the body that we may not be focused on enough: our joints.
There are 143 joints in the human body that connect our bones together, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that more than one-third of Americans are suffering from joint discomfort. So how can we protect our joints before they start to cause pain?
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, explains that we are putting stress on our joints daily—and not just while exercising.
“Joint pain is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States,” he says. “We put stress on our joints by carrying extra weight, practicing poor posture and sitting improperly. In addition, many who keep active lifestyles and fitness routines are not properly attending to injuries when they occur, and therefore, set themselves up for long-term discomfort later in life.”
Dr. Rippe shares that in women, the leading cause of joint discomfort is being overweight or obese. He recommends you start really thinking about joint health as early as your thirties to help strengthen and lubricate joints and support them through aging.
One way to support joint health is through getting enough glucosamine, a natural compound in the body that supports the fluid found around joints. “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, in their natural diets to help support joint health,” explains Dr. Rippe. “By incorporating a balance of healthy food in our diet and taking daily supplements, such as Osteo Bi-Flex®, which provides nourishing ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin, we are helping to strengthen and support our joints as they gradually deteriorate with age.”
In addition to supplements and diet, runners can promote healthy joints through their shoe choices, by finding a type that works best for them and their needs. There is not one shoe right for everyone, but Dr. Rippe suggests stability shoes with a cushioned midsole and heel or heavy, cushioned shoes while training, saving lightweight shoes for racing. “I also recommend those that have joint discomfort, to stretch regularly and to walk around the house barefoot,” he says. “Multiple studies have shown that being active while barefoot can provide a stronger platform for muscles to absorb shock and better support joints.”