If you have knee pain, exercising may be the last thing on your mind. You’re not alone, but exercising could be the best thing you can do for your knees, according to Lauren Conley, a clinical exercise physiologist.
“While knee pain presents some barriers, regular exercise can actually help ease knee pain, improve joint function and improve your overall health and flexibility,” said Conley.
The key is doing the right kind of exercises, such as low-impact workouts, while avoiding high-intensity exercises like jumping or running that could worsen the pain.
Knee-Friendly Workout Tips
Exercise in the water. Water’s buoyancy will take the load off your knees, allowing you to exercise with less pain and stress on your joints.
Avoid high-impact activities. Basketball, tennis, racquetball, squash, soccer and football are hard on the knees because they involve sudden starts, stops, and turns, as well as jumping. Avoid any type of exercise that involves jumping if you have knee pain.
Walk! Walking is recommended for people with knee pain because it’s a low-impact activity. If your joints are painful and stiff, start slowly and work up to 20-30 minutes of walking per day. Plus, daily walking will help with weight loss, which reduces stress on the knees.
Avoid very hard surfaces. Walking or running on concrete or asphalt is a bad idea when you suffer from knee pain because these surfaces have no shock absorption. Instead try a dirt or grass trail, walking track or a treadmill since those surfaces absorb shock better.
Try knee-friendly gym equipment. Stationary bikes, recumbent stationary bikes or elliptical machines are all great options to reduce strain on your knee.
Don’t overdo it. When muscles are fatigued, they can’t absorb as much shock, which places extra stress on the knees. Start your exercise program slowly and make sure to switch up your exercises daily to help avoid overuse injuries like tendinitis. Consider alternating walking and swimming, for example.
Warm up and stretch. Warm, flexible muscles aren’t injured as easily. Take a few minutes to stretch the quadriceps and hamstrings before your workout (the front and back of your thighs). Then start with a few minutes of slow walking before beginning exercise to get your heart rate and breathing elevated.
If you aren’t sure what kind of exercising you should do for your specific knee pain, consult your doctor or work with a physical therapist. You may need to see an orthopedist if your joint pain continues or impedes your usually activities.