Joint health is a big deal to me, and should be to you as well. Your muscles can't do their job efficiently if they're inhibited by stiff, painful joints. And believe me, a pain in the elbow or knee that won't go away is not a fun thing. It's obvious that maintaining joint health should be something you do proactively, and there are several ways that you can make sure those bodily hinges stay nice and lubricated as both the age goes up and the workouts get tougher.
A lot of joint health can be maintained merely through a healthy diet. Many vegetables, fruits, meat, and dairy products contain a lot of the nutrients needed to keep your tendons sliding smoothly time after time. But there's a lot that can be said for supplementation too, certain pills and medications that really make a difference when it comes to stiff joints. Let's examine a few proactive measures you can take both through diet and supplementation that will keep you walking pain free for many years to come:
Calcium: We've all heard this since we were kids. "Drink your milk, it'll build strong bones!" And it's true, Calcium plays a large role in bone and joint strength. The body uses it to increase bone mass (especially in children) so that bone problems are far less likely later in life. What are some foods rich in calcium? Well you had it right from the beginning with the dairy products. Milk and cheese are great examples of food rich with calcium. Also, almonds, several herbs, and yogurt are all packed with the stuff. Make sure you consume a good amount of Vitamin D and Potassium as well, because both those nutrients will aid in the absorption of calcium.
Fish Oil/Omega 3 Fatty Acids: These fatty acids are most often found in fish, and go a LONG way in helping your joints slide smoothly and pain free. They decrease joint inflammation, and fish oil has been known to work wonders for those with Rheumatoid Arthritis and other joint conditions. It's a great preventative medicine as well, and will encourage healthy joints throughout your life. I don't supplement fish oil, I eat plenty of fish as it is. Fish like tuna, salmon, herring, crab meat, shrimp, and krill all contain significant doses of Omega 3's. However some people like to supplement fish oil in pill form with their morning medication, and this is a great way to ensure your joints are getting what they need. If you take a trip down to your local pharmacy, you'll find that fish oil comes in all sorts of different dosages. It can be confusing, but you can't go wrong with a light/medium dose. If you're really confused, talk to a doctor or pharmacist. Here's a quote from healthyomega3.com about fish oil dosage:
Fish oil/omega 3 fatty acids support heart health as well, so they're a very useful tool in any nutritional diet.
Glucosamine/Chondroitin: This is one of the most famous joint health supplements in any runner's bag of nutrition related tricks. It's been known for a long time that daily supplementation of a Glucosamine/Chondroitin pill can help those joints slide smoothly. I've always associated it mostly with knee pain, but any joint pain is fair game to be cured by this wondrous little pill. Here's a great explanation from about.com regarding why these two supplements are so important:
Some will say that it's questionable as to how well an oral supplementation of these two nutrients will inevitably work, but there are many success stories out there that support the theory that a G/C pill in the morning can really make a difference with joint health and comfort. I have experimented with the pills myself, and while I've never noticed a giant difference, they do seem to help my knees stay strong after all the squats I do. Hey, better safe than sorry right?
And there's a little explanation of what you can do to actively keep your joints healthy and pain free. Keep on that healthy diet, and experiment with supplementation if you're starting to feel some pain. Again though, I don't claim to be an expert in the field, so I would suggest talking to a doctor or pharmacist if you're really looking to get some answers as to what could really help.
Keep healthy, stay mobile, and as always, good luck!