Healthy joints make for happy athletes. If you’re someone who suffered this summer with a bum knee or a sore shoulder, you know the frustration that’s involved when your joints give out and pain sets in.and best wishes. May all your dreams of bigger biceps and thinner thighs come true.

Research shows that more than 80 percent of all sports injuries involve joints. Ouch! The good news is that there is a lot you can do to keep your joints strong and healthy so you can stay active, energized and injury-free all year long. Here are seven points about joints that will save you time, money and aggravation:

  1. Lose Weight. The more fat you lug around the more stress to your joints. Every pound you lose equates to four pounds less pressure on your knees. Best advice? Don’t diet. Eat real food in modest amounts, including lots of fruits and vegetables.
  2. Cross Train. This is just a fancy way of saying you shouldn’t focus on one sport or activity to get fit. By cross training – participating in a mix of sports you enjoy – you avoid the kind of single-sport repetitive motion that can cause joint problems over time. Cross training helps you develop muscles in areas untouched by your primary sport, and strong muscles help stabilize and protect your joints. If you’re uncertain about a good cross training complement to your sport, do yoga. It’s an ancient and magnificent way to keep your joints strong, flexible and spacious.
  3. Lubricate. Joints have juices: lubricating fluids that allow your joints to move with more ease and less stress. To activate those juices, start your exercise routine with a gentle five to 10-minute warm-up, and gradually increase your effort. another good way to self-lube is water, water and more water – or its fluid equivalent – to the tune of six to eight glasses a day.
  4. Strength Train. Joints need protection. your muscles, tendons and ligaments are designed to protect your joints, but if they’re weak, they can’t do the job. It’s your job to get them strong and flexible, and the best way to do that is a well-designed, well-executed strength-training program that includes stretching. Get a trainer, read a book or take a class, but do something! If you do nothing, over time you will become weaker and weaker, and – believe this! – your joints will suffer.
  5. Get Balanced. about 55 percent of all joint injuries involve the knee. Balance exercises promote leg strength and stability and protect the knee. There are many wonderful standing poses in yoga and tai chi that improve balance, and so does working out on a wobbly balance board, one of the trendier pieces of fitness equipment. Muscle imbalance also contributes to joint problems. Typically, it’s the muscles you don’t see when you look in the mirror – hamstrings, rear deltoids, lower back, etc. – that are underdeveloped. Make sure your strength-training program is balanced and works your upper and lower body and your back side, as well as your front side.
  6. Don’t Overdo It. Joints need tender care. If you jerk them around too much, or if you work them in ways they are not intended to go, they will rebel. Trying to lift too much weight, for instance, is a very jerky thing to do. So is overtraining – doing too much, too often – on muscles and joints not ready for the stress and strain. Learn to listen to your body. understand the range of motion for joints. (Knees, for instance, are supposed to hinge, not rotate.) Never push past joint pain. Be kind to your joints, and they will serve you well.
  7. Fight Inflammation with Food. The anti-inflammatory diet is a well-documented way of eating that decreases diseasecausing inflammation throughout the body, including the joints. It avoids foods that make inflammation worse – saturated fats, simple refined carbs – and emphasizes healthy fats, including olive oil and omega-3 fatty acid foods such as salmon, herring, sardines, flax seed and walnuts. antioxidants such as Vitamin C (in foods, not supplements), selenium and carotenes are part of the anti-inflammatory diet, and so are bioflavenoids (quercetin and anthocyanidins) found in onions, kale, leeks, blueberries and red and black grapes. Ginger and turmeric are two spices that also fight inflammation. Interested? Good! See a nutritionist or visit www.drweil.com for details.