We use our knees in nearly all of our daily activities, so it should come as no surprise that they develop some wear and tear over time. Years of standing, bending, climbing, walking, and squatting can place a great deal of pressure on the knees, leaving them prone to aches, stiffness and swelling.
Knee pain can occur in people of all ages, but it is most common in older individuals. An estimated 25 percent of American women and 16.5 percent of American men over the age of 70 report having knee pain (Source: Everyday Health). Regardless of your age, there are two important steps that can help you prevent and control knee pain: exercise and maintain a healthy weight.
According to Harvard Medical researchers, when you walk, the force placed on your knees is about 1.5 times your total body weight. That force increases to two to three times your body weight when climbing stairs and a shocking four to five times your body weight when squatting. If you are currently overweight, your knees are enduring a great deal of stress on a daily basis. Losing even just a few pounds can take a great deal of pressure off your knees and may help alleviate your symptoms (Source: Bicycling).
Low-impact exercises are also important for strengthening knees and keeping the joints lubricated. Try adding these exercises to your routine to keep knee pain under control:
- Walking – Walking is a simple and effective way to stay mobile and relieve joint stiffness. And because it places the least amount of stress on your knees, it is a safe option for those dealing with knee pain.
- Wall sits – Wall sits strengthen the muscle groups that support the knee joint, which can help to keep the knees healthy and strong. Stand with your back against the wall and feet about hip distance apart. Gradually lower your body into a seated position and hold for 30 seconds.
- Leg lifts – Leg lifts are another great way to strengthen the muscles that surround the knee. Lie flat on the floor with legs fully extended. Raise one leg about 12 inches off the floor, then lower and repeat for 10 to 12 reps. Repeat with the other leg.
- Calf raises – Standing behind a chair with feet about hip-width apart, raise your heels a few inches off the floor until you come up onto your toes. Hold for a few seconds, and then slowly lower your heels back to the floor.
- Stretching – Muscles that are limber and pliable allow for proper joint movement and decrease the risk of injury. To maintain healthy knees, remember to regularly stretch all leg muscles including the calves, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, and IT band.