Bad knees, and the associated pain and stiffness, may make it difficult to get needed exercise. Sufferers may even worry that they’re going to do more damage to already painful knees. But according to Harvard Health Publishing, there is no evidence that exercise creates or exacerbates common knee conditions, such as arthritis. Not only is exercise safe, but there is also evidence that the effort reduces pain and disability. Though this isn't asy news if the pain is what is getting in the way.
Exercise may be good for painful and arthritic knees but those with the condition should still be careful about what types of activities they engage in. With the right workout, though, they can stay active while strengthening knees, reducing pain and increasing range of motion. But what workouts are safe or even recommended for bad knees? We've got you covered.
Knee-strengthening workouts can help reduce pain in the long-term. These exercises don’t necessarily strengthen the joint of the knee, but they do strengthen the muscles surrounding the knees, which lends the joint more support, says Medical News Today. Before doing any of these exercises, it’s best to start with a warm-up of stretching or light exercise, such as walking and, obviously, check with a doctor beforehand to prevent exacerbating or worsening any existing conditions.
- Leg lifts — Laying on the ground, slowly lift one leg and hold it about a foot off the floor for five seconds. Repeat for the other leg. Perform two sets of five or more lifts, depending on stamina and pain level.
- Hamstring curls — Bend one leg at the knee, raising the foot toward the buttocks. Hold for five seconds in the raised position. Again, perform two sets of five or more. Take a break between sets as needed for pain management.
- Wall squats — While standing flat-backed to a wall, slide down the wall until into a high sitting position. Hold for five seconds. Perform two sets of two to five squats or more as tolerated.
When doing any of these exercises, be sure to make slow, even, careful and smooth movements. Pain is a signal to stop exercising and speak with a doctor.
Cardio for Bad Knees
The key to doing cardio without hurting knees is to reduce the impact and pressure on tender knees. Women’s Health recommends the following cardio exercises for bad knees.
- Swimming — Swimming is a great cardio workout for people with bad knees because the exercise places little or no weight on painful knees. The best part? Swimming can burn more calories than jogging for those who have a vigorous swim style.
- Elliptical — Unlike jogging and walking, the elliptical machine provides smooth movement while reducing the impact on knees.
- Rowing — Rowing creates even less pressure on knees than an elliptical and, eve better, rowing is also great for increasing core strength as it works the abs, arms, and back as well as the legs.
Cardio exercises are great for burning calories and increasing stamina. However, it helps to avoid jolting, high-impact exercises, such as jogging and aerobics. Instead, choose low-impact exercises that get the heart pumping.
Pain-Free Knee Workout
Self magazine highlights a few routine exercises to help alleviate knee pain, too. The key is to keep weight and pressure off of the knees while performing these.
- Glute bridge — Lie down with feet on the floor and knees bent. Slowly and gradually lift buttocks off the floor a few inches. Hold for a few seconds before releasing. Perform several repetitions as long as the movement is tolerated.
- Leg kicks — While on hands and knees, gently raise one leg up behind. Keep the knee bent. Complete all repetitions for one leg before moving to the next.
- Lateral walk — Step twice to the side while in a shallow squatted position. Take two similar steps in the opposite direction to reset. Perform 10 repetitions or as many as can be tolerated.
Working out with painful, stiff knees can be challenging, but exercise is too important to forego. In fact, exercising is actually good for even painful knees and may reduce pain while increasing the quality of life. What’s more, exercise keeps us fit and healthy while warding off dangerous diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes — so it's a healthy non-negotiable.
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