Whether you're young or young-at-heart, joints can get stiff, especially in the legs. Light to moderate exercise can help maintain bone strength, keep muscles strong to support joints, control body weight and restore and maintain piece of mind, relaxation and an overall positive outlook on life. Regular exercise increases strength and flexibility, which reduces joint pain and fatigue. For stiff joints and legs, the best exercises target range of motion, increase physical and cardiovascular strength and (most importantly) keep you active and moving in a healthy, low-impact manner.
Range of Motion
Range-of-motion exercises prevent restricted movement by allowing all of your joints a chance to work to their fullest ability on a regular basis. For instance, simply raising your arm over your head allows your muscles and joints to run through the full range of motion of your arm. Working from the top of the head through your body to the tip of the toes, moving each joint or part of the body is a good review session for your muscles and joints to remind them how far they're supposed to move. Range-of-motion exercises can be executed everyday and are not only beneficially but also relaxing.
Aerobic exercises can increase cardiovascular health and overall fitness. Exercises such as walking, jogging, cycling or swimming are great aerobic workouts. Walking strengthens muscles in a low-impact manner and encourages oxygen flow to your knee and joints. Swimming is also a very beneficial aerobic and cardio exercise because water supports your body as it moves and reduces stress on the bones, joints and muscles including the spine, hips and knees. In addition, warm water encourages muscular relaxation and decreases pain.
Yoga is good for stiff joints because it encourages slow, relaxing, gradual movements that increase strength, flexibility and balance. Yoga also decreases inflammation and reinforces a positive outlook and mental state. Poses, such as a High Lunge, Warrior pose and Frog pose, can help to keep knees, hips and hip flexors, happy, healthy and loose. In addition, having healthy knees and hips can decrease back pain and stiffness.
If you suffer from severely stiff joints or arthritis, you should always consult your doctor or physical therapist for advice on creating a routine that's right for you. Exercise is definitely healthy, but improper strain on the body can hinder more than help. Range-of-motion exercises can be practiced everyday; however, you can save aerobic exercises for three times a week. Consider three 20- to 30-minute aerobic sessions each week, but never rush yourself. Listen to your body and do whatever you believe is best for you. If you experience high joint pain after a workout, don't hesitate to consult your doctor.
Dorothy Stephenson is a writer with experience in travel, health, nutrition, equine science, real estate, history, green living, fitness and agriculture. She has written for publications such as "EQUUS," "American Farrier’s Journal," "Today’s Diet and Nutrition," "Military Officer" and "The Washington Examiner."