It's thanks to our healthy joints that we can move, run, jump, twist and turn. They're connected by ligaments and muscles for stability and have a layer of articular cartilage (smooth white tissue) on the ends of the bones to help distribute the compression forces and allow for smooth gliding when we move.

Keeping joints healthy to reduce the wear and tear on the cartilage is a key component to having an active lifestyle and continuing to play the sports you love. Exercises that reduce the load on the joints while using one's core muscles are crucial to long-lasting function and reduce the potential for early arthritis. So continuing to move and picking the right exercises for joint health are a must.

Additionally, healthy joints are key for prevention of early onset joint replacement surgeries – especially hip and knee arthroplasties.

The key to a successful exercise program is variety. Completing a balance of aerobic, muscle strengthening and flexibility exercises, along with good weight management, will provide the base for good joint health for a lifetime. Cross-training has become a popular way to add variety to your exercise routine by not performing the same activities each time you work out.

Flexibility exercises allow us to maintain the full range of motion that joints desire. Active stretching exercises such as yoga, tai chi and Pilates all help our joints stay ready for more intense exercise. It is recommended that stretching exercises be performed before and after aerobic or strength training for maximum performance.

Aerobic (cardiovascular) exercises should begin with relatively low intensity. As you age, you should avoid high-impact training such as jumping rope, step aerobics or running on hard surfaces such as city streets. Low impact exercises and sports such as bicycling, walking and swimming are ideal and can be performed with minimal equipment. Gym equipment with low impact loads on the legs would include using an elliptical, stair climber or stationary cycle.

Weight training keeps your muscles strong and allows for good joint stability. Performing weight training with proper form is critical, as is starting with low loads and higher repetitions for joint safety. Before starting a weight training program, you should seek the advice of a trained professional such as a physical therapist or exercise physiologist to develop the optimal program.

Above all, you should pick exercises and activities that you enjoy and  that meet the low joint load described above.

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