On this page

The effects of exercise on bones and joints

Woman sat down at the gym
On this page

How does exercise affect your joints?

Exercise is essential to living a balanced and healthy lifestyle, it helps to keep your muscles strong and gets joints moving. Exercise can strengthen the muscles around your joints helping to protect, strengthen and support them. If you experience joint pain when exercising you may wish to wear a support or brace around the affected area.

A support worn on your knee, ankle or back can help to reduce swelling, aid compression and support the muscles while you exercise. Exercise can also help you to manage your weight and prevent weight gain which in turn adds extra pressure and stress onto your joints.

What is the best exercise for your joints?

Finding an exercise that you love and is easy on your joints is the best option for those who experience joint pain in their knee, ankle or wrist. Low impact aerobic exercise such as swimming, walking and cycling are best for joints and will also release happiness inducing hormones – endorphins.

Yoga, tai chi and Pilates all focus on wellbeing to promote strength, balance and flexibility. Find a local group near you and be sure to take each practice at your own pace, if a posture causes you pain stop doing it and adopt a softer position. Your teacher will be able to offer advice and guidance during your sessions.

What can I use to support my joints during exercise?

  • Supports – Wearing a strap or brace around your knee, elbow or back can help to reduce the strain exerted on the painful area. Many supports, for example a knee support, come with silicone gel patches which helps to further support the area and ease any pain you may feel.
  • Posture brace – These can be used to correct alignment and posture. If you find that you slouch at your desk, the brace can stop slouching by relieving strain on your muscles and joints in your back and neck.
  • Sports tape – When applied correctly sports tape helps relieve pressure from overused muscles while reducing swelling and alleviating pain.
  • Wrist straps – Predominately used by weight lifters, wrist straps attach to the barbell allowing the lifter to fatigue certain muscles without worrying that their grip will fail first.
  • Compression bandage – limits swelling. When applied to parts of the body such as the back it inhibits damaging movements but allows stretching and contracting
  • Gels, creams and tablets – Brands such as Flexiseq have designed products that ease pain and stiffness within the joints, which can be used in conjunction with exercise to improve joint mobility.

Find out more about relieving joint pain in our joint pain relief article

Elbow support for tennis elbow

Tennis elbow can cause pain outside and around the elbow, this can occur if you have over used or strained the muscles and tendons around your elbow joint. Usually tennis elbow will usually get better without treatment, however limiting the use of your elbow will help to speed up recovery as can wearing an elbow support. A support especially designed for tennis elbow can be an effective treatment, more so if it is paired with rest. A support will compress the arm to help to alleviate pain and reduce swelling. If the pain in your elbow persists, even after you have rested your arm for a few days you should visit your GP.

What vitamins are good for your joints?

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate naturally occur in the body in and around cartilage cells that protect our bones at the joints. It is thought that glucosamine supplements could help the body to rebuild damaged cartilage, however there is little comprehensive evidence to suggest these benefits in humans.

Can I wear a support when running?

If you have knee or ankle pain when you’re running you should stop running, take time to rest the area and if the pain doesn’t improve you may need to see a physio therapist.

Sports injuries, such as knee and ankle pain, are common and it is best that you don’t continue to run until the injury has healed. Wearing a support around your knee or ankle that has been designed for running may help, however you will need to consult a medical professional to see if it is ok to run with your injury before doing so.

How do you strengthen your joints?

If you’re looking to strengthen your joints the best thing you can do is exercise, as this helps to strengthen the muscles around the joints. Make sure to warm up before you begin exercising as well as cool down afterwards as this helps to stretch the muscles.