Ah, winter. The season of cozy sweaters, giant mugs of tea, and...grumpy joints? For some of us, the colder months bring unwanted changes in the ways our joints feel. But why does this happen? And more importantly, what can we do about it? Let's dig in!
How does the cold weather affect our joints?
The connection between joint issues and cold weather is a common phenomenon which is why researchers have been trying to understand its causes. Although the research is mixed, scientists have some theories:Thicker Joint Fluid: Think of your joints as well-oiled hinges. In warmer weather, that oil is nice and thin, allowing smooth movement. But when the temperature dips, that oil thickens, making your joints feel stiff and grumpy.
Lack of Activity: Shorter days and colder temperatures often lead to decreased physical activity. Prolonged periods of inactivity may result in more stiffness while less exercise can weaken the muscles needed to support our joints.
If you’re struggling with troublesome joints, especially in the winter, there are a few points of action you can take. The first is, to try to stay mobile as much as you normally would in the warmer months.
Obviously, exercise is an important part of staying physically and mentally healthy. Here are some low impact exercises to try to incorporate into your movement routine:
- Floor exercises: These include abdominal curls, crunches, push-ups, plank, or leg lifts.
- Upper body exercises: These include repeated lifting of hand weights, plank, or push-ups.
- Stretching exercises: These include toe touching, calf raises, Yoga and squatting.
These exercises will help build strength in your muscles and tissues that support your joints. Also, consider adding a daily walk to keep your joints from becoming stiff. Walking is a low-impact exercise that most of us take for granted. Bundle up in layers and get outside for 20 minutes. You’ll notice the difference!
What else can you do to support your joints this winter?
Warm Up Wisely: Before any activity, spend 5-10 minutes on gentle stretches or light cardio to get your blood flowing and loosen up your joints. Think of it as preheating your engine before a road trip – your joints will thank you!
Soothe winter sadness
Practicing self-care becomes even more important as the weather turns cold and gray. When we are feeling down, we tend to notice our points of discomfort more.
Drinking plenty of water is always important for your joint health, but it is especially important to keep hydrated when the weather is cold. Aim for 8 glasses a day, and even more if you're sweating during your workouts.
Apply heat: Applying heat to joints with a heating pad or warm compress can help relax muscles and improve flexibility. Think of it as giving your joints a warm hug.
Focus on your diet
While eating a well-balanced diet is important to maintain healthy joints and generally feel our best, certain foods in particular can help support joint, muscle, and bone health so we can stay active. Be sure to include plenty of protein, amino acids, vitamins D and C, minerals like calcium and magnesium, as well as antioxidant-rich ingredients in your diet.
As the weather gets colder, our joints become less lubricated and may become more problematic. With a little awareness and some proactive steps, you can conquer winter and keep your joints feeling happy and healthy all season long!
Want even more tips? Get social with us on @primalharvest for ideas on how to stay active, healthy recipe inspo, how-to videos, yoga, mobility, and exercise tutorials, and exclusive content created by the Primal Harvest tribe.
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