Your knees play a big role in many of your daily activities such as walking, getting in & out of cars, using stairs, & getting up from sitting in a chair. If you have problems with them then they can even make it hard to sleep or sit for long periods. Medical research shows that doing the right exercise can help keep your knees healthy by protecting them from injury & can also significantly improve many common problems that you may already have. Your knees rely a lot on the muscles of your hip, quads (front of thigh), hamstrings (back of thigh) & calf to support them & make them move well. If these muscles get weak then your knee loses some of it’s stability and this can cause pain, increase your risk of developing or aggravating arthritis, & make your leg feel weak like it won’t support your weight. Making sure your muscles are strong and the right length makes your knee stable, prevents injury & reduces pain. This is especially important for your quads & hamstrings to keep the right strength balance between the front & back of your knee. Both aerobic (cardio) & resistance (weights) exercises have been shown to bring many benefits for your knees. These include;
- reducing pain & improving your ability to do daily tasks such as walk, drive & use stairs
- promoting weight loss, which reduces the stress & strain you put on your knees improving your balance & strength which helps prevent falls
- helping fight osteoporosis by increasing bone density
- reducing the risk of secondary problems with your ligaments, cartilage & kneecap
If you already have knee problems then exercise can be very good for you however you should consult your trainer or physio to make sure the exercise is right for you. Research shows that in conditions such as knee osteoarthritis the benefits of exercise are further improved when the exercise is done together with physio treatment & appropriate weight loss. The general recommendations for knee exercises for most people are;
- start gently and progress gradually. Have supervision if you are unsure or have any underlying problem or injury. You should not feel any knee pain as you exercise.
- use a mix of cardio & weights exercises
- keep to low-impact exercises initially e.g. exercise bike, cross-trainer, shallow squats (avoid deep squats as they stress your knee & your kneecap) make sure you wear appropriate shoes (trainers) because they absorb shock & help keep your whole leg in the right alignment
- keep the amount of strengthening you do for the back of your knee (e.g. hamstring curls) in balance with your exercises for the front (e.g. knee extensions). This balance is important for knee stability & preventing pain.
Following these few simple rules will get you on the right track to enjoying all of the great benefits that regular exercise can bring for your knees.