Movement is medicine: 3 easy tips to help reduce stiff joints
Sunday 15th December 2019
Here is our latest article featured in the London Evening Standard as part of Voltarols Get Active campaign..
We now have less reason to move than ever. Many jobs are mostly sedentary, box sets encourage us to binge on TV for hours on end, we can take the lift instead of the stairs and drive a car to run errands.
A recent Lancet study found 36 per cent of people were not getting enough physical activity in the UK in 2016, with slightly more women (40 per cent) than men (32 per cent). Meanwhile, research into office workers in the UK showed that 71 per cent of the working day was spent in sedentary activities.
And we are becoming increasingly aware of how sedentary behaviour impacts our health. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggested that sitting is responsible for more annual deaths than smoking.
Spending long hours in the same position can affect the health of our joints and cause lower back and neck pain. The prevalence of the latter has risen by almost 9 per cent in the last five years in the UK, according to research from the British Chiropractic Association. Some 65 per cent of people surveyed reported experiencing back or neck ache once a month, while 49 per cent of people surveyed said they suffered from back or neck ache weekly. Nearly half (45 per cent) reported sitting still for long periods of time as a trigger for their pain.
Being inactive can impact our ability to move. This is down to the relationship between our central nervous system (CNS) and joints. Our CNS and our joints constantly communicate via a process called afferent feedback. Spending long periods in the same position can lead to dysfunctional joints and essentially muffle this conversation - over time this can lead to feeling stiff and sore.
So what can we do to be more active? The answer is to create movement habits.
Set a reminder to move every 45 minutes
If you spend much of your day seated then it will soon become a habit. Even with the best of intentions, once your day is in full swing, it's easy to forget to move regularly.
The way to avoid this scenario is by setting a reminder on your smartphone or watch to stand up and move around at least every 45 minutes. If you are in a situation that makes it difficult to move then I always find the bathroom a worthy excuse to make a break for it.
Oil your joints first thing
The second movement habit is to oil your joints. Every morning aim to warm up for your day by implementing joint rotations. Rotate each joint in a circular motion while trying to avoid compensating by moving any other part of your body. This will increase blood flow, bringing nutrients and lubrication to the joint, allowing it to function properly. This routine can be performed throughout your day whenever the opportunity arises.
Add mobility routines to your workouts
Lastly, aim to incorporate mobility training into your workouts. When you are just starting out you will need to dedicate a higher percentage of your workout time to performing specific mobility routine. Aim to target your three most restricted areas and train them just like you would a muscle.
By moving more you will build a base of healthy, resilient joints. This can translate into less pain and moving with more freedom and, ultimately, may result in more confidence that your body is capable of doing the things that you need it to do.
Movement is medicine - make sure you take your dose regularly.