Protect Your Knees.
Knee pain is, well, a pain. It slows you down and keeps you on the sidelines of life. And, while not all knee pain can be prevented, there are steps you can take to improve your knee function which can, in turn, protect your knees.
If you’re dealing with knee pain, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s quite prevalent across most age groups.
In its guide on knee pain, the Cleveland Clinic notes that approximately 18 million people seek medical help for knee pain each year. This includes pain from overuse, an injury, arthritis or mechanical problems.
And it’s no wonder. The knee—which is the largest joint in the body—has a very complex structure. And, like most complicated machinery, the more moving parts, the more that can go wrong. That’s why it’s smart to pay attention to how well something is functioning—before it breaks down.
Maintain a Healthy Weight.
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to keep your knees happy and functioning well. Carrying excess weight increases the pressure put on your knee joints with every step you take.
How much pressure do we put on our knees when we walk? More than you think. According to Harvard Health Publishing, when you walk on level ground, the force on your knees is 1½ times your body weight. For example, a 200-pound man will put 300-pounds of pressure on his knees with each step!
That force is even greater when you go up and down stairs (2-3 times your body weight) and when you bend down to pick up something or tie your shoes (4-5 times your body weight).
In short, every extra pound creates additional strain on your knee joints. Losing even 10 pounds will help reduce the pressure on your knees.
Build Strength – Increase Flexibility.
Strong, flexible muscles in the legs help provide support for the knees. They also help your knee joints absorb shock. If those muscles are weak or tight, they’re less able to protect your knees, thus increasing your risk for an injury. It also accelerates the breakdown of the cartilage around the joint, increasing the risk of osteoarthritis.
So which muscles should you target for building strength? Your quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thigh), hamstrings (the muscles on the back of your thigh), gluteus (the buttock muscles) and hip flexors (the muscles in your upper thigh).
Balance and stability training helps the muscles around your knees work more efficiently. Stretching also helps keep your muscles healthy, strong and flexible.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, moving a painful knee is better for your knee than doing nothing at all. When you don’t move your knee, it becomes stiffer, making it more uncomfortable and harder to go about your daily activities.
How does exercise help? In short, it lubricates your joints. When you exercise, synovial fluid is released. And, much like how oil lubricates engine parts, this fluid helps your bones move more smoothly.
It’s important to choose the right kind of exercise. Avoid high-impact exercise like running or aerobics as they can aggravate knee pain. Instead, opt for low-impact activities like walking or swimming.
Another low-impact option? Exercising on a NuStep cross trainer. The NuStep’s seated design, low-inertia start-up and user-controlled step length help minimize joint stress. And, the total-body workout is an ideal way to take the steps outlined above…all while giving your knees a break.
Always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.