Even youngish joints can feel creaky and painful without proper care. Luckily, lifestyle changes can help you stay active longer.
"With an average life expectancy of more than 70 years, it's more important than ever for us to protect our bodies," says Dr. Kevin Bonner, an orthopedic surgeon who practices at Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk, Va.
*Stay fit. Strong muscles help keep joints stable and decrease stress on cartilage, or connective tissue. Vary workouts to include both cardiovascular and strength-training.
* Maintain a healthy weight. Every extra pound puts six to seven times that amount of pressure on your knees. That can destroy cartilage and result in painful bone-on-bone contact.
* Focus on posture. Slouching while sitting or standing leads to uneven weight distribution that can strain ligaments and muscles, according to the Mayo Clinic.
* Avoid damaging activities. People at high risk for arthritis may want to limit high-impact exercises (moves where both feet leave the ground at once). Former athletes who have suffered knee ligament tears, for example, may benefit more from low-impact workouts such as swimming and biking. If you're experiencing knee pain, also avoid deep squats and lunges.
* Don't overdo exercise. Never increase workout lengths by more than 10 percent per week. If you run 10 miles one week, don't try to do 20 the next -- make it 11.
* Learn proper form. Consult a coach or trainer at least once, particularly with activities requiring repetitive motions such as tennis, golf and weightlifting.
* Don't skip your warm-up. Tight muscles around a joint increase injury risk. Stretch after workouts, too.
SBlt Seek treatment. Don't wait too long to consult a doctor about chronic joint pain or declining range of motion. You may suffer irreversible damage.