Although it may be hard to picture it, having bad knees does not mean the end of exercise. Something like running or tennis may no longer be an option, but this does not mean you have to forego cardio altogether.
In fact, many exercises can actually help strengthen your knees and help to ease your pain.
“Training other areas such as the hip, ankle, and most importantly the core will also benefit as the body works in synergy,” says chiropractic physician Dr. Scott Schreiber. “If the hip or ankle is weak, the knee will become painful. Balance training is also vitally important.”
If your knees aren’t exactly in tip-top shape, try these five low-impact exercises.
“Not only will you get a great gentle workout with the resistance of the water, but if you suspend in the water, weight is taken off the knees,” says personal trainer and fitness specialist Kim Evans. “In the water, you have a much higher chance to be able to continue on with a workout with out the pain of those knees.”
Evans suggests moving through the water or using a pool object to work the core, so you can work those muscles while simultaneously getting a cardiovascular workout.
2. Bridge Kicks
“Bridge kicks strengthen the glutes, hamstrings and torso for core stabilization,” says Alejandro Rojas, head of fitness at Health LA. Because you are lying on your back, there’s no pressure on the knees and you are still able to work out your legs and your core without any of the extra pain.
Pilates is a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints and a great option for people with knee pain. “The deep core strength that Pilates builds relieves pressure on joints and muscles in basic movements, like walking, and other exercises,” says Anne Menner, a certified pilates instructor.
“Pilates’ attention to alignment and movement could help limit the stress on knee joints that might be due to compensation for other weaknesses or alignment problems in general.”
“Improve the range of motion of the joints above and below the knee,” suggests strength and conditioning specialist James Kilgallon.
“It may sound strange, but knee trouble often stems from problems with the ankles or hips. You can put less strain on your knees by strengthening those other leg joints, and see some great results. Yoga is great for this.”
It might seem surprising, but squats are quite good for the muscles that stabilize your knee, especially when using a wall for support. “Think of your quadriceps like shock absorbers on a car,” says personal trainer Shane McLean.
“Strengthening that muscle without painful movement from the knees, and you will be better able to absorb shock.” Just be sure to keep a 90 degree angle and avoid your knees going over your toes.
Here are some additional tips to help keep your knees healthy: