Properly caring for your joints can ensure you continue to stay mobile well into later life. Robert Mair reports.

Losing mobility is one of the big fears for older adults, as it is often coupled with the end of independence and increasing frailty. But we can do several things to keep the muscles flexible and the joints supple as we age.

In this article you will find:

  1. Exercise
  2. Diet
  3. Weight
  4. Supplements
  5. Labour saving devices
  6. Effective monitoring
  7. Hobbies
  8. Supports
  9. Keeping warm
  10. Sleep


Regular, gentle exercise ensures joints stay supple. Exercise should not be intensive, but simple rotations of the wrists, shoulders and ankles and bending of the knees and elbows will keep the joints flexible.

Tai-chi is also beneficial and hydrotherapy provides a good workout for joints and muscles.


A balanced diet is essential for your wellbeing and helps keep the joints healthy. However, a number of different vitamins and minerals are especially beneficial, including:

  • Calcium. As you get older bones begin to lose density and weaken, which can affect how they sit in the joints. Calcium ensures the bones remain strong and is found in abundance in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt.
  • Vitamin D. This helps the body absorb calcium, and can be found in oily fish and egg yolks. Sunlight also provides an excellent source of vitamin D.
  • Vitamin A. Although vitamin A is poisonous if consumed in large quantities, it helps to reduce bone fractures. Carrots, spinach and mangoes are a good source of vitamin A.
  • Vitamin C. An antioxidant, vitamin C also keeps the bones healthy and is found in potatoes, broccoli and strawberries.
  • Foods containing phosphorus, magnesium and ginger can help prevent joint trouble.

For your body to absorb nutrients alcohol should be avoided and you should not drink caffeine-based drinks with meals. Smoking also slows down the absorption process, and this too should be avoided.


Excess weight puts extra pressure on the load-bearing joints – the spine, knees, hips, ankles and feet. To alleviate this, you should aim to get as close as possible to your ideal weight, ensuring no undue stress is put on the joints.


As you get older, it becomes more difficult for the body to produce the required vitamins and minerals to keep the joints healthy. Instead, supplements may be taken to boost the body’s natural levels. As well as vitamin supplements, the following might be useful:

  • Boron. Boron occurs naturally in all foods derived from plants and is believed to help prevent the excretion of calcium from the body.
  • Glucosamine. Used to treat osteoporosis, glucosamine is a widely used and accepted supplement to aid the bones and joints.
  • ASU. A compound of avocado and soyabean oils, ASU is used in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
  • Cod liver oil and flax seed oil. Both have high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help relieve the symptoms of arthritis.

Labour saving devices

As we age, the joints loosen and can become disfigured. This is a particular problem in the fingers and hands, with half of people with rheumatoid arthritis developing some form of hand disfigurement.

This makes everyday tasks, such as opening a tin, difficult. Labour saving devices are simple gadgets that allow you to do normal household tasks, but without risking damage to the hands. For example, an electric tin opener is easy to use and avoids putting excess stress on wrists and fingers.

Effective monitoring

If you do experience any pain or discomfort in your joints, you should monitor it, considering the causes and any exacerbating factors.


Often, pain and discomfort in the joints stops people from doing their favourite pastimes. But instead of stopping hobbies completely, you should continue to do them with regular breaks. This will keep the joints mobile, but also give them the chance to recover.


Physical supports, such as wrist splints and thumb splints, help ease the pressure on joints and will enable you to carry out everyday tasks with relative ease and comfort.

Keeping warm

When we are asleep or are immobile for any length of time, the joints can stiffen. To prevent this a small blanket over any exposed areas, such as hands or feet, can help keep the joints warm and the muscles supple.


A good night’s sleep is essential for the body to repair itself, but for people with joint pain it can be difficult to get comfortable. A good, supportive mattress can be beneficial and you should ensure your neck is supported by an appropriate number of pillows. A relaxing routine and a hot bath may also help soothe the muscles and joints.