Learning how to protect your knees can mean the difference between harmful wear and tear — or worse, a serious injury — and keeping your joints healthy well into your next few decades. But beyond safe exercise habits and wearing supportive shoes (particularly when you're on your feet for long periods) what can be done to protect your knees?
Luckily, several at-home remedies to safeguard your knees have been scientifically proven to give these all-important joints the boost they need to stay strong, healthy, and injury-free. Here are the best things you can do to prevent your knees from getting hurt — and to keep yourself physically healthy for as long as you can.
1. Consider the pill.
Researchers at McGill University in Montreal found that active women taking oral contraceptives are significantly less likely to tear ligaments and damage knee joints. The pill prevents the hormonal swings that can weaken ligaments.
2. “Oil” your knees with a supplement.
A recent Welsh study found that 86 percent of arthritis patients taking a 1,000-mg. capsule of extra-strength cod liver oil daily had a drop in levels of the enzymes that cause cartilage damage and pain. (Get your doctor’s okay if you’re on a blood-thinner.)
3. Zap inflammation with juice.
Downing 1/2 oz. of pomegranate juice daily reduces joint inflammation 18 percent — and joint pain 62 percent — within three months, UCLA research shows. Pomegranate juice is nature’s richest natural source of ellagic acid, a natural anti-inflammatory and painkiller.
4. Go shoeless to prevent joint woes.
Walking barefoot reduces the stress and impact on your knees nearly 12 percent, which can help prevent osteoarthritis, say researchers at Rush Medical College in Chicago.
5. Chill out before your period.
It’s wise to skip knee-taxing activities that involve jumping, such as soccer and basketball, the week prior to, or at the start of, your period. A Texas Tech University study discovered that women are more prone to knee injuries when estrogen levels are highest.
6. Kick the habit to preserve cartilage.
The risk of knee-cartilage loss is almost two times greater for smokers than nonsmokers, reveals Mayo Clinic research. If you need help ditching cigarettes, ask your doctor about smoking-cessation programs and prescriptions.
7. Lose just one pound.
And the load on your knee joints will drop four pounds. Losing a little more — just 10 percent of your weight — can even slow the progression of osteoarthritis, say University of Arizona College of Medicine experts.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.