Knees that creak, ache, or outright hurt limit your daily activity and ability to do all the fun things you enjoy. Don’t let a bum knee hold you back. Stay active, but protect your knees during exercise to keep this joint healthy.
Follow these five precautions to keep your knees healthy even during rigorous workouts.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you participate in high-impact exercises, such as running or plyometrics, being a healthy weight minimizes the additional impact on your knees. Of course, you may be exercising because a healthy weight is your goal. What are you supposed to do then?
When you’ve got more than 50 pounds to lose, opt for calorie-burning cardio that’s somewhat gentle on your joints. Cycling, cross-country skiing, swimming, and rowing are all excellent choices.
Get stuck in a workout rut and your results plateau. Your body may also rebel.
Continually doing the same movement pattern strengthens specific muscles at the expense of others, leaving the knee joint vulnerable. Plus, unchanging workouts that stress the knee joint never give it a break, so you just continue to wear down the joint.
Cross-train by varying your workouts weekly. Maybe some days you hike, while other days you ride a stationary bike, lift weights, or do yoga. Your knee becomes stronger when challenged at different intensities and in multiple directions.
Work All the Muscles Around the Knee
A joint is only as strong as the surrounding muscles. For your knee, that means you need powerful quadriceps (at the front of your thigh) and hamstrings (at the back of your thigh). Strong glutes and calves also help make your legs powerful, so you don’t have to depend on the knee joint bone and connective tissue to do the work during exercise.
Strength-training exercises, such as squats and lunges, strengthen these knee-supporting muscles. Consult a personal trainer or talk to the staff at Next Step Orthopedics for more details on exercises that you should include to build up your leg muscles and support your knees.
Warm Up Before Exercise
Exercising at a high intensity without adequately preparing your body for the work invites injury, especially to vulnerable joints like the knees. Spend five to 10 minutes warming your body up — whether you’re planning to walk a brisk mile, run a 5K, or lift some heavy weights.
A warm-up starts modestly. If you plan to power walk, for example, spend a few minutes strolling and then pick up your pace gradually over the course of five minutes to full speed.
A workout that involves weight training includes about five minutes of cardio, such as marching in place or riding a stationary bicycle, and a couple of minutes of body-weight dynamic movements, such as squats, high knee raises, and side lunges.
A warm-up increases circulation and range of motion, which prepares your joints for the rigors of your workout session.
Break Away From Weight Machines
Weight machines, such as the leg press and leg extension, seem like an easy and safe way for you to perform leg workouts. But overly relying on these machines limits your movement patterns and can cause you knee pain over time. They restrict specific muscles in your body from helping you lift, which can lead to knee inflammation and pain.
Machines are helpful for beginners but may increase the likelihood of knee pain in the future because they don’t train you to lift a load in a functional, natural way. Free weights and functional strength-based movements, such as hip bridges, step-ups, and wall sits, help train your body to do as it’s designed.
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