Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Go Hard on Your Joints

box jumping exercise
 Pekic/Getty Images

High-impact movements are the enemy of healthy knees, right? Dead wrong, says Paul Ochoa, a physical therapist in New York City. In fact, it’s what keeps them going strong.

Popular opinion says that as we age, we need to give our joints a break. Box jumps and basketball are a younger man’s game. Over time, too much pounding degrades cartilage, puts excess pressure on tendons, and causes arthritis. Or we simply creak when ascending a f light of stairs.

But that’s just not how the body works. The way to keep your joints functioning properly is to work them out.

Think about the way you build and maintain muscle. When you lift weights and increase the load over time, your muscles adapt by getting stronger. Now take jumping and all the other moves that force you to get some air. When you land, you’re placing a bigger-than-body-weight force on the bones. It puts stress—in a good way—on your limbs, helping to preserve bone density. You’re also taxing the tendons that connect the muscles to those bones, forcing the tendons to get stronger, which is the best way to bolster strength and mobility.

If you haven’t done sets of box jumps in a while, go easy to avoid ankle sprains. Try jumping jacks, skipping rope, and high knees. Or choose a lower box for box jumps. But do something. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.