• Elbows and knees

    Winter's a great time to work on these important joints
  • Even if you're an active person, odds are that you're still going to get outside less often than you do in summer.
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  • Even if you're an active person, odds are that you're still going to get outside less often than you do in summer.
    That makes winter a great time to work on making two very important joints more "bendable" — your knees and elbows. If the tendons and ligaments in your knees and elbows get regular workouts, they will be less stiff. The tissues will be more likely to stretch instead of tearing apart, should you get into an awkward range of motion.
    In addition, the physical stress of moving your arm and leg bones around will help make them stronger and not as prone to a break if you should fall or be in an accident. But the biggest plus is that when you bend these joints all around, you also move your hip and shoulder joints.
    The movements required for strengthening your long bones and making the tissues around them more flexible doesn't have to be extreme. While lifting weights at a gym is an efficient method, you can make the moves you need right at home. The mere flexing of the joints will do the job.
    It's very simple. Starting with the arms, because they take less effort to move, bend your hands to your shoulders and then straighten your arms again. Do this at least 20 times.
    But unlike doing all the movements in a "bicep curl" position, with the upper arm at your side, you want to move your arms into different positions. Do this by pointing your elbow out to the side, out to the back, up level with your ears — while bending your hands to your shoulders and straightening them again. This way, you not only bend your elbow joints, you also rotate your shoulder joints.
    The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the body, matched only by the hip. The more you move these two mobile joints in their entire range of motion, the more pliable they will become. The easiest way to do it is by flexing at the middle joint — for the arms, it's the elbow; for the legs, it's the knees.
    Moving the knees is done in a similar fashion to moving the elbows. Hold onto the back of a hard-to-move big chair, or support yourself on a large and sturdy table. Lift one leg and bend it; pointing the knee to the front, side and back. Do these movements slowly so that you don't throw yourself off balance. You can build even more flexibility into your hips by lying on your back, moving your heels toward your butt, and letting the knees fall outward, so that you get a good stretch in the pelvic muscles.
    If you're already in good shape, add body-weight squats to your leg routine — while holding the edge of a sturdy table or chair arm and keeping your back straight, squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then stand up again. This also will build great leg and core strength.
    Remember that all these movements should be done fairly slowly — don't swing your limbs around. And you shouldn't feel any pain while doing them. Important: if you have arthritis, or any joint problems, it's best to talk to your doctor before starting this or any exercise program. But these are movements that most boomers can do, or can work up to doing, that will keep you moving easily and well throughout your entire life.
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