“Bad” Knee Exercises

by Jessica Lakes

It’s easy to come up with excuses when you don’t want to exercise. “I have bad knees” is one of many. However, reducing your activity level may weaken your muscles and make the problem worse. Don’t let knee problems get in the way of your health–there are plenty of exercises that put very little strain on your knees. Managing your knee health with exercises such as stretching, and physical therapy is required to avoiding costly surgeries or pain medications overuse.

Some Do’s and Don’ts:

Keep this list in mind whenever you’re doing something physical to avoid aggravating the condition of your knees or worsening a recent injury.

  • DON’T: participate in sports that require sudden stopping and starting, jumping, and twisting. These movements put undue pressure on your knee joints.
  • DO: try activities such as swimming and low-impact cycling that will strengthen your leg muscles and improve your cardiovascular health, while being gentle on your knees.
  • DON’T: do high-impact exercises such as lunges and squats.
  • DO: consider joining yoga or Pilate’s class. These classes offer full body workouts that focus on core strength, breathing, and stretching. A qualified instructor will be able to guide you into poses that support knee health. You can apply these lessons to everyday activities, such as walking up stairs and lifting heavy objects. You may find more pain-free patterns of movement by correcting bad habits and mobilizing the knee joint properly.

How to Strengthen Your Knees

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, AAOS, recommends strength training to stabilize and support your knees. Include exercises for the front of your legs such as wall squats in which you stand with your back against the wall, and then bend your knees to lower your hips until your thighs are near parallel with the floor. Maintain your wall squat for five to 10 seconds and then release.

Include exercises for the back of your legs such as a leg curl. Stand facing a chair and then bend your knee to lift your foot behind your body and hold it still for three to five seconds. Lift and lower each foot eight to 10 times. Perform strength training every other day.

Never bend your legs to a point where your knees stick out past your toes. That puts a lot of pressure under the kneecap. This not only applies to the following exercises for knee pain but also when you’re stretching or doing aerobics activities such as step aerobics.

Exercises to Ease Knee Pain

  • Side Swing:

Anchor band on left side at floor height and loop band around right ankle. Balancing on left foot (hold on to something if needed), raise right leg out to side; lower.

  • Front Kick:

Turn so band is anchored behind you and around left ankle, foot flexed. Swing left leg forward about 12 inches, keeping it straight, and return to start.

  • Seated Rotator:

Sit so band is anchored to right and around left ankle. Cross ankles. Keeping knees together, rotate left leg outward about 12 inches. Return to start.

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