Use a heavy handbag as a weight to keep joints healthy, physio urges

A physiotherapist is urging women to use a heavy handbag as a weight. [Photo: Getty]

Many of us exercise to keep our heart healthy and waistline slim.

But, few realise the importance of strengthening work outs to ensure our joints stay healthy.

While the thought of lifting weights may fill you with dread, a physiotherapist claims a heavy handbag will do the job.

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The NHS recommends adults do strengthening activities on at least two days a week.

This could include anything from pilates and tai chi to shovelling and carrying children.

The good news is, many of us may have been strengthening our joints without realising it.

“Women carry heavy handbags,” Anj Peri, from SprintPhysio, said. “Use it as a weight.”

“You don’t need to join an exercise class.”

To get the most out of your “work out”, lift the handbag above your head and then take it back to centre, repeating several times.

Also move it to the left and right, taking it back to centre for a short “break” in-between.

The NHS also recommends doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week.

This can include brisk walking, hiking or something much more fun.

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“One session of bowling counts as moderate exercise,” Valentina Roffi, also from SprintPhysio, said.

Failing to look after your joints can lead to osteoarthritis (OA).

OA causes the joints to become painful and stiff, making movement difficult.

It affects 7.3 million people in England alone, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

And in the US, more than 30 million adults have OA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

Our joints are exposed to a “constant low level of damage”, according to the NHS.

Joint injury, a family history of the disease and carrying too much weight all raise the risk.

While OA becomes more common with age, it doesn’t have to be inevitable.

“Loosing 1kg (2.2lbs) reduces the load on a joint by four times,” Ms Roffi said.

Women may want to be particularly cautious. A fall in the bone-protecting hormone oestrogen after the menopause raises their risk.

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As well as exercise and weight loss, the NHS also recommends maintaining a good posture and avoiding staying in the same position too long.

Taking a supplement could also ward off any joint issues.

“Glucosamine is the best kept secret for joint health,” Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director of Healthspan, said.

“It should be the first thing you think about when your joints start creaking.”

Glucosamine is used by the body to make the building blocks of ligaments, tendons and cartilage, which make up our joints.

Dr Brewer recommends taking it with chondroitin, the nutrient that helps keep connective tissue in shape.

“Chondroitin is glucosamine’s perfect partner,” she said.

“It inhibits the break down of cartilage and is anti-inflammatory.”

Turmeric is also particularly good at combating inflammation.

“Take a supplement on top of your curry for maximal absorption,” Dr Brewer said.