The knees are the largest joints in the body, so they tend to take the brunt of the damage done from walking, running and going up and down steps. Any joint that aches should be evaluated by a medical professional but one common cause of knee pain is osteoarthritis.
The knees have a protective sheath of cartilage the prevents friction as you move. When this cartilage wears down, the bones ends rub and that causes inflammation and pain.
The old adage “Move it or lose it” makes sense when it comes to osteoarthritis. The right exercises can help build up cartilage in the knees making the joint stronger and less prone to friction damage.
Exercises You Should Do
The Knee Rock
Start by putting down a towel or yoga mat for cushion. Get down on one knee like you want to propose marriage and rock forward on the leg that is on the floor to stretch the front of the joint. Your shoulders should remain straight and keep the knee from extending past the toes as you rock it. Do one or two sets and then switch to work the other knee.
Straight Leg Raises
Sit on a straight back chair with your feet planted firmly in front. Lift one leg until straight and hold it for three seconds then return it to the floor. Alternate legs as you do one or two sets. As you grow stronger, you can add more repetitions and sets to continue to strengthen the joint.
Start down on the floor lying flat on your stomach. Pull one leg up behind you moving the heel towards your buttocks and then return to start. Alternate between legs for one or two sets. Keep your hips pressed against the ground as you move to keep from straining your lower back.
Exercises to Avoid
As a general rule, you should avoid any strengthening exercises that put the weight on the ankle as the knee flexes. For example, standing straight and lunging forward on one leg.
Also avoid high-impact workouts such as:
- High-impact aerobics
- Jump roping
Instead, focus on low-impact activities for cardio exercise like:
- Brisk walking
- Bike riding
Use pain as your guide when doing cardiovascular exercises, too. If an elliptical feels like too much, try the recumbent bike or swimming. Tai chi and yoga are good choices if you choose classes for individuals with arthritis.