As two of the most complex joints in your body, your knees are built to withstand an enormous amount of pressure: They support 80% of your body weight when you stand and absorb up to one-and-a-half times your weight when you walk.
Although your knees are inherently strong, the everyday stress of having to perform under pressure leaves them prone to injury as well as a variety of wear-and-tear conditions, including degenerative arthritis.
Chronic knee pain may be a common problem among adults, especially with advancing age, but that doesn’t make it a foregone conclusion. Staying physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight are two of the best ways to keep your knees strong and healthy as you age, provided you follow a knee-friendly workout routine.
Dr. Razzano shares the following strategies that can help you protect your knees from injury and excessive wear and tear when you exercise.
Wear the right shoes
Before you hop on the treadmill or head into your next cardio dance class, take a good look at your favorite pair of workout shoes. Are they comfortable and supportive, or are they past their prime?
The negative effects of old, worn-out athletic shoes aren’t limited to your feet and ankles. In fact, because your feet, ankles, knees, and hips form a powerful kinetic chain that shapes and directs your overall body mechanics, wearing worn-out shoes can quickly lead to knee pain or exacerbate an existing problem.
Athletic shoes fall into two general categories — those that are designed for stability, and those that provide neutral support. Stability shoes contain a dense, cushioned heel and midsole that help control motion and prevent overpronation, or the tendency to roll the foot inward as it strikes the ground. While neutral shoes also offer cushioning, shock absorption, and support, they aren’t designed to correct overpronation.
To find out which type of athletic shoe is best for you, bring your old shoes to a store that specializes in athletic footwear. After looking for abnormal wear patterns on your old shoes and analyzing the way you walk, an experienced staff person can pinpoint biomechanical issues and help you find the best pair of shoes for your feet.
Warm up before you work out
Just as you wouldn’t grab the heaviest dumbbell on your first day of strength training or go for a 20-mile run in your first week of marathon training, you shouldn’t force your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints to work out before warming them up.
A proper warm-up is one of the most underrated features of a safe and effective exercise program. Besides increasing your body temperature and promoting blood flow to help loosen your muscles, a quick warm-up also helps lubricate and prepare your joints for exercise-related stress.
Simply walking or marching in place for five minutes before your workout begins is all it takes to reduce your risk of knee injury and prevent postexercise joint stiffness.
Avoid excessive stress and strain
If there’s nothing you like more than to crank up the resistance during your indoor cycling class, it’s time to take a step back and consider how your favorite workout may be affecting your knees.
Any activity that places excessive stress or strain on your knees increases your risk of injury and long-term joint pain, particularly if that activity has long been a part of your normal workout routine.
Even when performed properly, deep lunges, full squats, or leg extensions can be hard on your knees, as can taking extra-large steps on your gym’s stair or climbing machine. Running downhill or running on very hard or extra-soft surfaces is also rough on your knee joints.
Suddenly increasing the duration or intensity of your workouts can also place undue strain on your knees.
Learn proper form and technique
No matter what type of exercise your workouts include, proper form and technique are essential for protecting your joints. Proper form requires understanding what it feels like to maintain good posture and alignment, while proper technique means learning how to perform an exercise safely and correctly.
Runners can protect their knees from stress and injury by learning the best way to land each step, as well as how to efficiently propel their weight against gravity to move forward with ease. Likewise, cyclists can protect their knees by positioning their feet correctly on the pedals and learning how to engage both their quadriceps and their hamstrings for efficient pedaling.
Whether you’re a runner, cyclist, yoga enthusiast, or you simply like to hop on the elliptical, take time to improve your posture and learn the proper techniques for your favorite activities.
Create a well-rounded routine
Nothing puts more pressure on your knees than a one-dimensional workout routine that stresses your joints in the same way over and over again. You can avoid this common pitfall by creating a well-rounded fitness approach that emphasizes cross-training and provides ample recovery time.
If you’re an avid runner, or you regularly attend high-impact circuit training classes, you can give your knees a break by alternating these joint-intensive workouts with low-impact alternatives like swimming, cycling, Pilates, or yoga.
Besides giving your knees some much-needed recovery, cross-training also helps ensure the muscles around your knees are equally strong and flexible for optimal joint stability.
To learn more about the many ways you can keep your knees strong and healthy for years to come, call our office in Miamisburg, Ohio, or use our convenient online booking feature to schedule an appointment.