Knee strengthening exercises can prevent and treat knee problems. Knee pain exercises can also help relieve discomfort from injuries, arthritis, and surgery.
Knees are hinge-like joints where upper leg bones meet lower leg bones. And they need to be strong, flexible, and stable so you can stand, walk, run, jump, turn, and crouch without pain or falling. If your knees are not giving you any problems, the best way to keep them strong and pain-free is to incorporate knee strengthening exercises into your workout routines.
Unfortunately, accidents, arthritis, and other diseases and conditions (including being significantly overweight) resulting in knee pain, instability, and even disability are common. However, having knee problems doesn’t mean you can’t exercise.
In fact, you can improve your knee strength, reduce pain, and often speed recovery after surgery with specific knee strengthening exercises.
Try this knee strengthening exercise
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) notes people of all ages can benefit from exercises that keep knees strong. This knee curl and leg straightening exercise can help:
- Stand behind a sturdy chair and hold onto the back of the chair for balance. Lift one leg straight back; don’t bend your knee or point your toes.
- Breathe in slowly, then breathe out as you slowly bring your heel up toward your buttocks as far as possible, without straining.
- Bend only from your knee, keeping hips still. Keep the leg you are standing on slightly bent. Hold this position for one second, then inhale as you slowly lower your foot to the floor.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times with one leg, and then with the other.
If this exercise becomes easier for you, the NIA suggests adding ankle weights to increase the strengthening impact.
Knee strengthening exercises help knee problems
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), the majority of people living with knee problems should get three types of exercise regularly.
Range-of-motion exercises relieve stiffness and help maintain joint movement. Aerobic or endurance exercises improve circulation and benefit your heart — they also help you lose excess pounds that put pressure on knees. Leg lifts, riding a stationary bike, and walking up stairs are exercises that directly build muscles to support, protect, and strengthen your knees.
In general, swimming, other exercises in a pool, and walking are gentle ways to strengthen knees and are helpful knee pain exercises, NIAMS points out. However, you should avoid jarring exercises such as jogging if you have knee pain or instability.
Of course, If you are recovering from an accident or surgery or have a health problem, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about knee pain exercises right for you.
Exercise is important after knee surgery
If you have knee replacement surgery, starting knee strengthening exercises as soon as you are able and have your doctor’s ok can speed recovery.
Regular exercise will restore mobility and strength to your knee and help you return to your regular daily activities as soon as possible after surgery. Your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist may recommend that you exercise for 20 to 30 minutes several times a day and walk for 30 minutes two or three times a day during early recovery.
Exercises like these from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons are frequently recommended to help increase circulation to legs and feet to prevent blood clots after surgery and to strengthen your muscles to improve knee movement:
Quadriceps sets. You can do this exercise in bed. Tighten your thigh muscle in the leg that underwent surgery, then try to straighten your knee. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times over about two minutes; then rest a minute and repeat until your thigh muscles feels fatigued.
Straight leg raises. With your knee fully straightened on the bed, tighten your thigh muscle and then lift your leg several inches. Hold for five to 10 seconds, then slowly lower your leg. Repeat until your thigh is fatigued.
You can also do leg raises while you sit in a chair or on the side of your bed. Tighten your thigh muscle and hold your knee straightened fully with your leg unsupported. Hold for five to 10 seconds and repeat until your thigh becomes fatigued.
How to prevent knee problems in the first place
It’s true regular exercise to strengthen knees and keeping weight under control can relieve knee pain and boost recovery from knee surgery. Knee pain exercises can even reduce knee osteoarthritis symptoms. But these same strategies can also prevent many knee problems from occurring in the first place.
The Arthritis Foundation advises following these tips to avoid injuries while exercising to strengthen your knees:
- Stretch and warm up before exercise. Cool down afterwards.
- If you experience knee pain when exercising, stop and rest.
- Wear properly fitting shoes and protective sports equipment.
- Don’t run on hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt.
- Avoid twisting your knees while exercising.
January 25, 2019
Janet O’Dell, RN