Exercise with ‘bad knees': How to work out with knee pain

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    It’s important for overall health to eat right and stay in shape, but how are you supposed to get out and exercise if you have “bad knees”?

    When it comes to exercising, there are a lot of areas of the body that can develop problems; tendons get overworked, toes and fingers break easily, muscles get sore, joints grind, and bruises seemingly appear out of nowhere. But there are a few parts of the body that really take us out of commission when they get hurt, and one of those places is our knees.

    Knee pain affects approximately 30 percent of adults during a given month, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control, and most people will be affected by knee pain at some point in their lives.

    Most knee injuries occur during sports or other types of intense or repetitive activity, and since the knee is one of the largest joints in the body, not only can the injury be very painful, it can also mean a significant loss in activity levels.

    “Because [the knees are] the main hinge between the ground and the rest of your body, the knees serve as your ‘wheels’ that get you around and allow you to be active,” University of Pennsylvania orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Nicholas DiNubile, MD, told WebMD. “Life can really go downhill when you damage your knees.”

    Preparing your legs to relieve knee pain

    All hope is not lost even if a chronic knee pain makes you reluctant to go out and get some exercise. There are many ways to exercise if you have bad knees; it’s just a matter of knowing how and knowing when.

    First, you can’t expect to exercise with bad knees if your body isn’t up to the job. One of the main objectives of an exercise routine centered on knee health is to build up the muscles around the knee. This takes stress off the joint itself and transfers the bulk of the workout onto the muscles in the leg.

    Most people assume squats and related movements will hurt the knees. However, when done properly, this type of exercise strengthens the leg which takes load off the knees when doing other types of exercise.

    To relieve pain and strengthen your legs, follow the exercises in this video:

    Sprint 2 The Table also recommends the following exercises to build leg muscle without stressing the knees:

    Sumo Stomps: Work the quads and the inner and outer thighs. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and then position yourself into a proper squat (back straight). From this position, lift one leg at a time as far out to the side as it will go then bring it back down. Try to stay as low as possible during the squat.

    Cable Squats: This exercise requires the use of a low pulley cable. Assume a proper squat position and, if desired, place a small medicine ball between the knees. Lean back and use the resistance from the cable to pull yourself up into a standing position.

    Hip Lifts: Lay on your back with feet elevated onto a bench or chair. Keep your knees bent at a 90 degree angle just above your hips. From this position, arch your back, bringing your butt off the floor as high as possible.

    Exercising with bad knees

    Cardio doesn’t end when knee pain begins; in fact, exercising is important to keeping chronic knee pain from getting worse.

    To prevent knee pain or to complement your workout routine if you already have knee problems, follow these exercises:

    For individuals who are looking for ways to adjust their workout routine to accommodate bad knees, Gaiam Life recommends the following:

    Step Ups: This exercise should be performed with a low step. Place one foot entirely onto the step, making sure the knee is directly over the foot. Once the elevated foot is secure, bring up the second foot, tap the step and then lower the foot back down. To prevent knee strain, the step should not be too tall.

    Modified Squats: Modified squats, which only go down to an individual’s comfort level, are considered beneficial for knee pain.

    Calf Raises: Calf raises involve standing with feet shoulder-width apart while lifting your body up onto your toes and then lowering back down.

    Scissor Kick: Lie on your back with your legs together and your arms at your side. When you are ready to begin, lift your shoulder off the floor approximately one inch and life your legs 6 inches. Keep your upper body elevated while spreading your legs apart and bringing them back together, crisscrossing each time. Great abs and legs exercise.

    Swimming: Few exercises take the strain off of the body’s joints like swimming. For people with bad knees, the most important tips to remember is not to tense the knees while kicking. Methods which strain the knees, like pushing off the wall or doing the “frog swim,” should also be avoided.

    Speed Walking: Running and jogging are usually out of the question for people with bad knees, but there’s nothing that says speed walking can’t be just as beneficial. If you haven’t yet strengthened your leg muscles, speed walking is best done on smooth, flat surfaces.

    Walking: You don’t have to go fast to enjoy the benefits of walking. Not only can walking be done almost anywhere, it can be done at your own speed and for as long as you can tolerate. Walking is a great time to take the dog out or to enjoy some bonding time with friends or family.


    Is that all there is if I want to exercise with bad knees?

    Exercising with bad knees to prevent more knee pain

    When in doubt, walk it out! Walking is a great low-impact exercise for people with bad knees or knee pain. (Shutterstock)

    While the above are good ideas on how to exercise if you have knee pain, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons makes the following recommendations for people who suffer from this condition:

    • Start slowly.
    • Do not ignore pain.
    • Do not overdo it; you should not be in pain after exercise.
    • Ask your doctor for advice on proper form and exercise level.
    • Warm up 5-10 minutes before getting into regular exercise.
    • Keep your IT band in shape with stretching and foam rolling.

    Be sure to stretch before and after a workout; joint flexibility is important to preventing further injury and keeping joints mobile.

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