Healthy joints are important for people of all ages and levels of physical conditions, from young athletes in their prime to older adults with arthritis, and a number of forms of exercise are beneficial for the joints. Types of joint exercises vary widely, from focused exercises which are designed to improve the condition of specific joints to more general exercise which promotes joint health. Many joint exercises can be done at home without any special equipment, and they are easy to learn and to integrate into the day.
In isolation exercises, a specific joint or muscle group is worked. Isolation exercises can be used to build up strength and flexibility in the joints, and to develop muscle tone in the surrounding area. These exercises can be conducted in a variety of ways; yoga, pilates, and weight lifting, for example, can all be used for isolation joint exercises. For people with weak joints, even lifting a light weight under the supervision of a physical therapist or personal trainer can make a significant improvement in physical condition.
Compound or multi-joint exercises are designed to work several joints at once. A number of forms of exercise work multiple joints together, and people can also do focused joint exercises which are designed to benefit groups of joints. Some people enjoy this option for working their joints because it helps them exercise more efficiently.
Low impact exercise like light aerobics and swimming can also be beneficial for the joints, although it is not necessarily specifically promoted as a form of joint exercise. This form of exercise helps joints grow stronger and more flexible and supports cardiovascular and muscular health. For people with painful joints, swimming is an excellent option, because it relieves pressure on the joints during the exercise.
In isometric joint exercises, the exercise is static, with no visible muscle movement, but the muscles and joints are still exercised. A classic example of an isometric joint exercise is an across the chest hand clasp, in which the hands are clasped with the palms facing, pushed together, and held for five to 15 seconds before being released briefly so that the exercise can be repeated. Isometric exercises gently build up strength without stressing the joints, and they can be an excellent option for people with painful joint conditions who find other forms of exercise difficult or unpleasant.
Exercises to improve joint function can also be a part of physical therapy. Physical therapists are especially skilled at joint stabilization exercises which are designed to help people feel more stable. Individuals with arthritis may benefit from such exercises, as can people recovering from strokes who feel unstable while walking. Physical therapists can also make recommendations for exercises to do at home.