Fitness Articles

Protecting Your Joints During Exercise

7 Common Exercise Mistakes That Hurt Your Joints

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Exercise is good for your heart, helps with weight loss and provides a variety of health-related benefits. At the same time, exercise comes with a certain degree of injury risk, and depending on the activity, it can also put a lot of stress on your joints. But is that enough reason to opt out of exercise? Most experts would say no. The key is to exercise safely and choose activities and movements that reduce your risk of injury, pain or other complications.

So how do you protect your joints during exercise to make sure you're not doing more harm than good? By creating an exercise routine based on your individual needs and abilities, as well as taking some precautionary measures, you can reduce your risk of injury and make exercise an enjoyable part of your daily routine--not an added stressor.
Common Joint Injuries
Joint injuries occur for a variety of reasons, including improper training or technique, overuse, sudden directional changes and even falls. Of course, there are health conditions that affect the joints, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and degenerative disc disease (the spine is comprised of many joints), but this article will focus on preventable injuries, not these chronic conditions.
The most common injuries happen to joints that are subjected to repeated impact, which will vary depending on the activity. For example, injuries to runners and walkers typically affect the hip, knee and ankle joints, since the lower body absorbs most of the impact during these activities. Tennis players often have elbow joint problems from the repeated swing of the racquet. Weightlifters commonly experience shoulder joint problems, especially if they regularly perform upper body exercises using very heavy weight. And people who play high-speed contact sports (such as basketball or soccer) can often experience injuries like joint sprains, twists or tears due to the torque of a sudden directional change or fall. But you don't have to be a serious athlete to experience injury.
7 Common Mistakes that Lead to Joint Injury
Everyday exercisers and weekend warriors often suffer injury due to a few common mistakes that can be prevented with careful attention. Here's what to be aware of so you can move and exercise without joint pain or injury. 
  • Doing too much, too soon. When starting a new exercise program, motivation is typically high.  It's easy to get caught up and decide that while a 30-minute workout is good, a 2-hour workout is even better. Before you know it, you've got nagging knee pain and have to stop your workout routine completely. Joint pain and injury is common when you don't allow the body to adapt slowly to exercise. Remember it's not just your heart and lungs that need to slowly work up to harder or longer workouts; every system in your body needs time to adapt: your muscles, circulatory system, ligaments, cartilage and even your bones and joints. It's important to ease into exercise, regardless of how motivated you are to do more--even if it feels "OK" at the time. Start with lighter activity, shorter durations, and less frequent workouts (to allow for some recovery days) and then progress as you feel up to it--but no more than about 10% per week.
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About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, medical exercise specialist and behavior change specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

Member Comments

    By doing exercise, our body becomes flexible, but sometimes by picking up the heavy load it affects our joints and gets paining. So, while doing exercise it needs to be careful.
    http://www.cell - 7/24/2014 7:23:35 AM
    I thought high impact was only when both feet were off the ground at the same time--even for a very brief interval. Does one foot off the ground become high impact if the return to Earth is intense? - 6/7/2013 7:59:51 AM
  • Sensible advice! I am a treadmill junkie, and try hard to avoid knee pain by stretching after each session and, on most days, using the foam roller. I have the foam roller right on the living room floor to remind me to use it! - 6/6/2013 7:28:13 AM
  • I'm also sold on stretching and using a foam roller. I should do it daily, but even just three or four times a week makes a difference. - 6/4/2013 12:01:19 PM
  • I'm also sold on stretching and using a foam roller. I should do it daily, but even just three or four times a week makes a difference. - 6/4/2013 12:01:19 PM
  • I commute by bike 3-4 days a week and usually go for a long ride on the weekends. I try to take two days a week off the bike. But when I'm off the bike for 3-4 days, I'm amazed how fresh and fast my legs feel. I'm completely sold on the power of recovery days. That keeps me honest when it comes to staying off the bike a couple of days a week. I know I'll be fitter and healthier for it. - 6/4/2013 11:58:58 AM
  • Yes, I am guilty of a few of these! - 6/4/2013 10:29:22 AM
    I routinely rest 1 - 2 days a week. For sure every Sunday is my day of rest. the second exercise rest day is forced on me whenever I travel for business. I make a concerted effort to exrcise at the very least five days a week with a target of six days. - 6/4/2013 9:44:08 AM
  • Yes on Saturday I say that's my rest day or I'll say when I come from church on Sunday I am relaxing not true. Then I hear my hubby saying you need to sit down and rest.. - 6/4/2013 8:13:17 AM
  • I know a lot of people don't like to take rest days but I know it when I need to take one! My body makes sure to let me know. And I listen! - 5/13/2013 9:35:47 AM

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