4 Ways You May Be Ruining Your Joints

Keep yourself running to a ripe old age by taking care of your body, and avoiding these pitfalls.

Cassie Shortsleeve for Prevention |

Sure, runners have much healthier knees than scientists thought, but injuries can still happen, and joints can wear out.

It used to be that joint replacements were a problem mostly for older people. But today, orthopedic surgeons are seeing people in their 40s, 50s, and even younger. In fact, surgeons at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City say the number of people younger than 60 going under the knife is up at least 15 percent in the last two years. Plus, data from the National Centre for Health Statistics finds the number of hip replacements more than doubled in a 10-year span, skyrocketing by 205 percent in people ages 45 to 54.

Surgeons attribute the rise to people wanting to stay active while they age, says Calin Moucha, chief of adult reconstruction and joint replacement surgery at The Mount Sinai Hospital. Today’s implants also last longer than they once did, sometimes up to 40 years, he says. This means joint replacements are now an option at a younger age, since physicians aren’t as worried about having to replace them.

But while the surgeries are effective, we’d all prefer to skip a trip to the hospital, right? Here, the top mistakes we all make when it comes to our joints – and how to stay out of harm’s way.

You’re Not Cross-Training

Moucha says that many patients seeking joint replacement are in good cardiovascular health, but not necessarily good physical health. Whether you’re running marathons or 5Ks, if that’s all you’re doing, you might have imbalances when it comes to muscle strength and flexibility. And this, paired with repetitive trauma over time, could lead to arthritis, he notes, causing your joints to wear away.

“It’s important to cross-train,” says Moucha. Giving certain muscle groups (like the ones you use on long, slow jogs) a break once or twice a week while activating new muscles (like the ones you might use sprinting) can fend off injury, he notes. (You should consider working these strength-training moves into your exercise program.)

strength training
Image by Rob Ward

You Get Overweight

When you run, your knee joints carry seven to nine times your body weight, according to Moucha. While your body can handle this – in fact research suggests that runners aren’t at an increased risk for issues like osteoarthritis – it’s important to keep the scale in check.

“From a biomechanical standpoint, increased weight is a lot of stress,” Moucha says. In fact, research out of the UK finds that overweight people are at a 40 percent or higher increased risk of a knee replacement down the line compared to those at normal weights. The link was even stronger in younger people.

You Skip Stretching

The key to joint health? Achieving a good balance between strength and flexibility, says Moucha. “As you get older, you need to spend as much time, if not more time, stretching than strengthening.” Why? Because the more candles on the birthday cake, the less flexible your muscles become, and flexible muscles help keep joints mobile.


Yoga Indoors: Downward Facing Dog Pose
Fizkes/Getty Images

You Push Yourself Beyond Your Limits in Yoga

Intense workouts like High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and mud runs aren’t the only way to injure your joints. While yoga and Pilates are great ways to boost flexibility and strength, anything extreme when it comes to range of motion – like reaching for that pose your body’s not quite ready for – can put you at risk for a joint injury, notes Moucha. “When you create range of motion extremes, you can create bony spurs (projections along a bone’s edges) that may predispose you to arthritis,” he says. Your best bet isn’t to skip yoga but rather to stick with the modifications that work for you, and give yourself time before trying anything you might not be ready for.

The article 4 Things You’re Doing That Are Ruining Your Joints originally appeared on Prevention.

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