Knees not feeling great? Do you find yourself wishing for the pain-free movement of your younger years? Today, we’re sharing ideas you can perform in safety and privacy with these knee strengthening exercises at home — to reduce pain, stiffness and discomfort.
Depending on your unique situation, these knee exercises might even eliminate the need for surgery.
Exercises for knee pain, particularly those designed for seniors, will build muscle and improve stability—two things that are fundamental to putting off or avoiding knee surgery.
But before we get into those exercises, let’s take a quick look at the mature knee.
The Mature, Senior Knee
If you’ve been experiencing pain in your knees, there’s a reason.
Two cartilage cushions have been absorbing shock (equal to four times your body weight) with every step, for the entirety of your life.
You’ll notice that some seniors have more knee pain than others, and there’s a reason for this. Of course, genetics play a role. Some knees are built to withstand more abuse than others; and some are prone to osteoarthritis, which affects 13% of women and 10% of men over the age of 60 (Clinics in Geriatric Medicine).
Being overweight puts some seniors’ knees under more stress than they’re designed for.
And the abuse your knees have endured over the years matters, too. Did you stand or walk on concrete all day? Were you an athlete? A runner?
Some of the most common senior knee ailments include degeneration and tears, patellofemoral pain syndrome (pain on the front of the knee) and Iliotibial band syndrome (pain on the outer side of the knee).
There are so many factors that contribute to the health of senior knees. Some of those factors are out of our control, others we can’t go back and change.
What we do know is that your knees’ muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilage have taken a beating and they could use some support.
So let’s start taking care of those knees today, with knee-strengthening exercises at home.
The Top Knee-Strengthening Exercises
Supporting the knee starts with making sure the muscles that assist the knee are pulling their own weight.
When your quads, hamstrings, core and hips are as strong as they can be, they absorb most of the stress and pressure that your knees have been suffering under. In most cases, knee-strengthening exercises at home do not strengthen the knee, but instead strengthen everything that helps the knee.
As always, please consult with a doctor or licensed physical therapist to ensure you’re performing the best knee exercises for your unique circumstances.
In general, the types of exercises you choose should align with the type of pain (or the type of condition) you’re experiencing.
Osteoarthritis pain is largely caused by inflammation, and the best kinds of exercises for that pain are low-impact, smooth-movement activities like swimming and yoga.
If you have injured one or both of your knees, and your pain stems from that, exercises for balance and strength are best. If you sit a lot, your knees will need to be regularly lifted and extended.
If you spend a lot of time on your feet, be sure to bend your knees throughout the day (lifting the foot toward the backside).
Knee Exercise #1: Squats
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lower your bum toward the ground. Stop before your knees come to a 90-degree angle, keeping the knees from going too far in front of your feet. Ensure that all your weight is on your heels and mid-foot…not the balls of your feet or your toes.
And just a note: when you’re doing any type of squats or lunges, make sure that your knee doesn’t fall inward. This could result in tendon injuries. Instead, keep your knee aligned by pushing it slightly outward, which will also give your glutes a workout, too.
Knee Exercise #2: Step-Ups
Stand facing a staircase or aerobic stepper. Step up with your right leg and bring your left leg up to stand on the first step. Lower yourself down, with the left leg first. Repeat 10 times, and then 10 times leading with the left leg.
Knee Exercise #3: Side Step-Ups
Find a staircase with a railing on both sides and rotate yourself so you’re sideways to the first step. Put the foot that’s closest to the staircase on the first step, hold onto the railing, and straighten that top leg, lifting your body off the ground. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Knee Exercise #4: Calf Raises
Hold onto a chair or counter for stability. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift your heels off the ground and stand on your toes for 5 seconds (or however long is comfortable). Repeat 15 times.
Knee Exercise #5: Knee Press-and-Stretches
Sit on your bed. Place a pillow under your ankle. Gently press your knee down, toward the bed. This stretch will help to increase your knees’ range of motion.
Knee Exercise #6: Crossed Legs
Sit on the edge of your bed and cross your legs at the ankles, with the left leg on top. Push your right (bottom) leg forward and your left (top) backwards so your feet are pushing/pulling against each other. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 5 times. This will work your knees and your thigh muscles.
Knee Exercise #7: Sidestep with Resistance
You can customize this one to your strength and ability. Place a resistance band around both ankles for the most resistance, below your knees for medium resistance or above your knees for the least amount of resistance.
Place your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees a bit. Step out with one foot until you feel resistance from the band. Plant your foot and slide the other foot over until your feet are shoulder-width apart again.
Repeat in the same direction until you’ve moved about 15 feet. Repeat in the other direction.
Knee Exercise #8: Hinged Hips
Lie on your side. Bend your knees, with one leg on top of the other. Lift your top knee upward, while keeping your feet together. Repeat 15 times on each side.
Knee Exercise #9: Quad Pushes
Lie on your back with at least one leg extended straight out on the floor. Press your knee toward the floor, which will cause the muscle on the top of your thigh to tighten. Hold this for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times and then move to the other leg.
Knee Exercise #10: Just Move
Simple movements like walking, biking and swimming will promote an overall sense of wellbeing, but that’s not all. You will build the muscle necessary for supporting your knees while getting fresh air, meeting friends and having fun!
Knee Exercises and Activities to Avoid
Avoid spending long periods of time standing or walking on concrete without cushioned insoles.
If you plan on gardening or doing anything else down low, try not to squat, which will put unnecessary stress on your knees. Instead, sit on a stool.
High-impact exercises that require running and jumping could further damage your knees. Opt for the elliptical, stationary bike or water aerobics instead.
Don’t sit with your legs crossed (crisscross-applesauce); this will also place undue stress on the knees.
And finally, work to eliminate excess weight you’re carrying. Remember, losing just one pound will eliminate four pounds of pressure from your knees.
Prolong Health with Knee-Strengthening Exercises
No part of the human body takes more abuse than our knees.
They’ve been through decades of leading, following, working, playing and traveling. And even if you’re not ready to slow down, your knees may be pleading with you to do just that.
You can still be active and energetic…with some tender-loving knee exercises.
Avoid activities that your knees don’t like and strengthen the rest of your body so your knees don’t have to work so hard.
And of course, if your knee pain becomes more than you can manage, talk to your doctor.
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