Are your knees giving you problems? You’re not alone. It is estimated that nearly 50 million Americans have the same experience.
Knees are the most commonly injured joints. Considering that when you simply walk up stairs, the pressure across your knee joints is four times your body weight, it is not a surprise. Simple wear and tear can end up slowing your mobility rate. And if you are overweight too….. just imagine the beating that your knees are taking.
Hey, it’s not too late. With care and maintenance, your knees can be trouble free. Even if you already experience problems, exercising the muscles surrounding the knee joints— the Quadriceps (the front of the thigh), Hamstrings (the back of thigh), Abductor (the outside thigh), and Adductor (the inside thigh)-—will make your knees stronger and less susceptible to injury. Exercise keeps your joints from stiffening and provides needed support, making movement easier and the real bonus is that it reduces the pain. You will need a resistance band for some of these exercises.
To stretch and strengthen your knee area, here are some exercises you can do:
Chair knee extension: Sitting in a chair, rest your foot on another chair so the knee is slightly raised. Gently push the raised knee toward the floor using only leg muscles. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds and release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
Heel slide knee extension: Lie on your back, with left knee bent and left foot flat on floor. Slowly slide the left heel away from your body so both legs are parallel. Hold for 5-10 seconds, return to starting position. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
Knee flexion: Sitting in a chair, loop a resistance band under your foot (resting on the floor). Gently pull on the band with both hands to bend the knee, raising your foot 4 – 5 inches off the floor. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
Hamstring stretch: Standing, put one foot in front of you, toes up. With hands on the small of your back (or one hand holding a chair for balance), bend the opposite knee and hip (not your lower back), until you feel the hamstrings stretch. The upper body comes forward at the hip. Hold for 5 -10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
FOR STRENGTH TRAINING
Wall slide: Leaning with your back against a wall, bend your knees 30°, sliding down the wall, then straighten up again. Move slowly and smoothly, using your hands on the wall for balance. Keep feet and legs parallel, and do not allow knees to go out over the toes. Repeat 5 -10 times.
Bent-Leg Raises: Sitting in a chair, straighten one leg in the air (without locking the knee). Hold for about one minute. Bend your knee to lower the leg about halfway to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. Return to starting position. Work up to 4 reps on each leg.
Straight-Leg Raises: Sitting in a chair, rest your foot on another chair. Lift the foot a few inches off the chair while keeping your leg straight. Hold for 5 -10 seconds. Return to resting position. Repeat 5 -10 times. (Work on increasing the time, up to 2-3 minutes)
Abductor Raise: Lie on your side, propped on an elbow. The leg on the floor bent, the other straight. Slowly lift the top leg, hold for 5 -10 seconds, then lower. (Ankle weights or a looped resistance band will increase the intensity). Do 1-3 sets with 12-15 repetitions. Remember to rest in between sets for 20 seconds. If you don’t like ankle weights, take one of your resistance bands, tie it in a loop and put it around your ankles.
Hamstring Curl: Stand with the front of your thighs against a surface (prone to a table or wall). Flex one knee up as far as is comfortable. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds, then lower slowly. When possible, do not touch the floor between repetitions. Do 1-3 sets with 12-15 repetitions each with a 20 second rest in between sets.
Step-Ups: Stand in front of a step, such as a sturdy bench or stair, about two feet high (adjust if necessary). Step up onto the support, straighten your knees fully (without locking them) and step down. Maintain a slow but steady pace. If you are comfortable with your balance, pump your arms while doing this exercise. Start with 1 minute, slowly building your time. Added benefit, it gets your heart pumping too!
Depending on your current level of activity and mobility, a good start would be 3 stretching and 3 strengthening exercises 3-4 times a week. Stretching should be done every day to prevent stiffness and achy joints.