4 Tips for Improved Joint Health From Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Haynes

It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional athlete, recreational exerciser, or weekend warrior — you need to protect your joint health. I fell into the first category when I was an NFLer playing for the Patriots and Raiders. However, everyone involved in an active lifestyle needs to prioritize their joints.

What makes joints such an integral part of an overall fitness lifestyle regimen? Your joints allow you to be flexible, agile, and quick. When they’re working at prime capacity, they enable you to jump higher, run faster, and pivot rapidly. They also protect you from injury. As a pro football player for decades, I focused plenty of attention on keeping my joints from deteriorating. From watching what I ate and drank to getting enough quality rest, I wanted to avoid the common problems associated with the breakdown of joints.

If you’ve done even a bit of research on how to keep joints healthy as you age, you already know some of those problems. When you abuse your joints, you’ll start to feel stiff, and you may have trouble moving. Many people experience joint pain, especially those who push their athleticism to the max without consideration for the needs of their bodies. As a result, they wind up getting sidelined — literally, if you’re in the NFL — or having to limit their workouts.

Ironically, this causes a downward spiral because one of the best things you can do for your joints is continue moving. Joints require exercise to maintain their appropriate range of motion. Every time you activate a joint, you act to lower inflammation in the tissues surrounding the joint. However, one of the biggest reasons many people stop exercising regularly is because they don’t like how it makes their joints feel, at least at first. Again, this presents a conundrum because the less often you move, the worse the issue becomes.

The ideal solution, then, is to make sure you’re following some best practices when it comes to incorporating joint health into your overall healthy living routine. The sooner you start, the greater your opportunity to get all the benefits that come from stronger, more supportive joints, including a boost in energy, reduced soreness, improved flexibility, and easier weight management. (Carrying too much weight can make certain joints, like your knees and hips, work harder than they need to.)

Below are some suggestions on how to keep your joints healthy as you age, so they can protect and serve you throughout all your physical needs:


Promise yourself that from this point forward, you’ll never go without a pre-workout or post-workout stretch. This is a key part of all NFLers’ training routines — and for good reason. Dynamic pre-workout stretching warms up the muscles and joints, naturally and quickly improving mobility. Static post-workout stretching reduces soreness and inflammation.

For your pre-workout stretches, consider simply doing some light activity to warm up your muscles. Take a brisk walk or engage in another exercise that begins to pump your blood and oxygen faster, such as overhead stretches and side bending. The goal is to get your joints ready for action. When your workout is over, you can cool down with yoga or Pilates poses and foam rolling. Though stretching adds time to the front and back end of your workouts, you’ll find that it decreases your discomfort and risk of injury and promotes recovery. This is particularly critical if you are involved in high-impact activities like running, jumping, weightlifting, or swinging a club.


Some of the workouts my teammates and I did daily took time and commitment for us to work up to. Instead of being tempted to overdo every workout, set realistic exercise goals. Create goals that are doable and not designed in a way that could possibly hurt your joints, muscles, tendons, or bones. Not sure what’s realistic? Listen to your body. You may even want to record each exercise session so you can set reasonable parameters and objectives for future training.

As part of this journey, always add some rest days into the mix. During rest days, you can still stretch with foam rollers or do lighter activities to move your joints. Just be sure you’re not forcing your joints to keep performing under pressure. Remember that consistency is key, as a routine can enhance athletic performance by ensuring your body is properly prepared for physical activity. A consistent schedule can also help identify weaknesses or areas that need more attention, making it easier to address them through targeted training and improving your overall strength and flexibility. Setting goals with specific endings in mind also helps you establish a strong work ethic, as it did for me in my career.


It can be hard to eat a balanced diet in today’s fast-paced world. Nevertheless, do your best to support joint health and workout recovery by consuming nutrient-packed meals, snacks, and beverages. You may also want to talk to your doctor about adding supplements that support joint mobility, such as glucosamine and chondroitin.

Following a proper diet will help you control any unwanted weight gain, too. Within a few weeks of “cleaning up” your food and drink intake, you should start to see and feel the difference in your body. Just be certain that you’re staying hydrated. Proper hydration is a crucial element of maintaining healthy joints. If it’s hard for you to stay hydrated, track your consumption of water and electrolyte-rich beverages designed to support joint lubrication.


In addition to going to your physician for annual physicals, consider talking with fitness experts. I’m a firm believer in getting tips from knowledgeable athletes and trainers. Ask your team of experts for insights into new exercises and stretches or information on the latest orthopedic products or other items like infrared-infused sleepwear or bedding that might help speed up your recovery and boost local circulation.

Your goals should be aligned with your desired outcomes and high enough to encourage interest and care for every part of your body, from your joints and bones to your heart and brain. The human system is designed to work as a machine. When all parts are simultaneously functioning at or near capacity, the machine runs efficiently — and so do you.

I wouldn’t have become a Hall of Fame honoree without focusing on my whole body’s health, including maintaining healthy joints. Talent only gets you so far. No matter what your ability, you need to pay attention to activities centered around giving your joints the care and attention they need. If you do, they’ll reward you with better workouts, enhanced performance, and smoother recoveries.

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Mike Haynes is a former NFL cornerback, Hall of Fame recipient, Super Bowl champion, and NFL 100 All-Time Team inductee. Mike is also a cancer survivor, a board member at Hologenix, LLC, and a brand ambassador for CELLIANT®, its flagship innovation. CELLIANT is an infrared ingredient brand that enhances textile-based products with health and wellness benefits across performance, recovery, and sleep. This article was originally published on The Good Men Project.