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Exercise and nourish your joints

I had spent many hours gardening one day last summer, and had awakened some neglected muscles. They were not happy after several hours of raking, shovelling and hauling heavy planters filled with soil around the backyard. On the positive side though, I burned quite a few calories.

According to a calorie expenditure website, an adult who weighs 150 pounds burns about 272 calories per hour doing general gardening work. Shovelling at a moderate rate (10 to 15 pounds per minute) burns about 476 calories per hour.

Fortunately, after walking around a little the next morning, my joints stopped creaking. Next time, I will warm my muscles and joints by starting a little more slowly.

Unfortunately, many people face chronic pain and stiffness due to joint issues. Although I don’t have arthritis, I know a lot of people who do. If you are among the many people who suffer from arthritis or other joint issues, consider some of the lifestyle-related approaches, along with medications you might be taking.

Low-impact exercise can help with the management of arthritis because it promotes weight management and flexibility. Discuss your physical activity plans with a health-care provider.

Swimming and water aerobics, for example, put less pressure on joints and can help decrease swelling and increase circulation to joints and muscles. Of course, if something causes joint pain, stop the activity right away.

Nutrition has been explored by researchers as a means of reducing the inflammation associated with arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids in oils and fish may decrease the inflammation associated with arthritis. According to the latest nutrition guide, we should eat eight ounces of seafood, such as salmon, per week.

Chronic pain can affect our appetite, so we may not feel like eating. Therefore, we need to aim for “nutrient-rich” foods from all the food groups, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy.

According to current recommendations, filling our plate half full with fruits and vegetables helps us meet our nutritional needs for vitamins, minerals and assorted phytochemicals (natural, health-promoting plant chemicals) that promote good health. Fruits and vegetables also are high in water and low in calories.

Drink plenty of water to keep your body well hydrated. We may be dehydrated without feeling thirsty, so carry a water bottle and sip regularly. If you do not like water, add ice and a squirt of lemon or lime juice. Be aware that some beverages are high in calories, so read the nutrition facts labels.

About the author

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Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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