4 Mobility Exercises for Better Joint Health

by Carla Henderson

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Have you ever wondered how many workouts your body will endure in your lifetime? While this may seem like an odd question to contemplate in our 20s, 30s and 40s, it’s an unfortunate fact that our joints generally wear out before our muscles. Therefore, joint pain and stiffness are top reasons why people quit fitness altogether. Expensive supplements might seem like the only answer for joint longevity, the reality is you can improve your joint health with some fairly basic movements. 

First, it’s important to know that joints are present anywhere bones in your body come together, including your hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows, wrists and spine. The space between these joints is filled with lubricating fluid, and the joints are surrounded by balloon-like structures called capsules. When these fluids and capsules are pliable, they facilitate easy movement. But they can also be thick and sticky, making movement difficult. 

Regular exercise is key to joint health, and so is warming up properly before you work out. You can start training your joints for easy movement in the long run by including the following four exercises as part of your daily workout warmup. Unlike lifting weights, which requires muscle recovery days, you can perform joint range of motion exercises every day to boost joint health. 

1. Hip Opener

(Photo: James Patrick (Proof))

Target: Hips and knees 


  1. Lie face-up on a mat.
  2. Bend your right knee straight up toward your right armpit.
  3. Grab the inside of your right foot with your right hand.
  4. Relax your hip and knee, then let your arm do the work as you guide your hip through tiny circles — as if you are stirring your hip in its socket.
  5. Repeat 10 times clockwise and 10 times counterclockwise, then give the other side a turn.

Alternative: If it’s difficult to relax your hip and knee into this position, wrap a yoga strap or extra pair of sweatpants under your thigh as you hold the loose ends in your hands to guide the motion.

2. Knee Sways

(Photo: James Patrick (Proof))

Target: Lower back mobility


  1. Lie faceup with your feet on the floor and knees bent at about 90 degrees, keeping your shoulder blades flat on the floor.
  2. Keep your knees close together as you allow them to gently rock from side to side.
  3. Go as far as you can without discomfort and without your shoulder blades coming off the floor.

3. Cat-Camel

(Photo: James Patrick (Proof))

Target: Spine motion


  1. Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.
  2. Place your weight through the thumb side of your palm, and all of the finger tips (as if you are grabbing the floor).
  3. Exhale as you round your spine upward. Allow your head to follow, as if you are trying to see your tailbone.
  4. Inhale as you lower your back into small arch, bringing your gaze upward to where the ceiling meets the wall in front of you.

Alternative: If your wrists or knees are uncomfortable, put a pillow or mat under your knees and perform the exercise on your elbows; you could also perform the spine motions standing with your hands against a wall.

4. Ankle Circles

(Photo: James Patrick (Proof))

Target: Often overlooked (but much needed) ankle and foot health

  1. In a standing or seated position, lift one foot so there is no weight on it. Stand or sit up tall, as if your head is trying to touch the ceiling.
  2. Move your foot and ankle in circular motions. Imagine there is a pencil extending from your big toe, and try to draw big circles through the air.
  3. Try to keep your knees and hips still.
  4. Repeat 10 times clockwise and 10 times counterclockwise, then give the other side a turn.