Pain-Free for Your Knees

Six great exercises to strengthen and support your knees.

Exercise may be the last thing on your mind if you suffer from chronic achy and painful knees. But whether you suffer from arthritis or are overweight, gentle exercises are one of the best things you can do for the health of your knees. Exercise helps strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee joint, rebuilds damaged knee cartilage, and helps you lose weight. These three benefits work to lessen the amount of stress on your knees and protect from further injury.

If you’re unsure why your knees are hurting or have recently suffered an injury, talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program. If you’re in great health, here are six great exercises you can do to improve the health of your knees.

1. Swimming

Water provides the perfect environment for exercising with knee or joint pain. Because of its buoyancy, there’s little to no pressure placed on your joints. Swimming is a low-impact, full-body exercise that’s great for burning calories, getting in shape, and losing weight. While in the water, keep your knees relaxed and avoid bending them too tightly.

2. Walking

Another low-impact activity that’s good for people with stiff and painful knees is walking. If possible, avoid walking on hard surfaces like concrete or pavement and walk on a surface that absorbs more of the shock of your step, such as a level dirt path, grass, or treadmill. Go at a pace that’s comfortable to you, and be careful that you don’t overdo it. You may feel stiff at first, but the stiffness should work itself out as you go. Each day, challenge yourself to go further or faster.

3. Partial Squats

Painful knees will not be helped by tight bends (past 90 degrees) and excessive pressure. This means exercises like full squats, lunges, and leg presses are off limits. However, what you can do are partial squats. Squats of any kind are a highly effective way to build muscle and burn calories. To do a partial squat, stand about a foot away from a chair and place your feet hip-width apart. Slowly bend at your hips as if to sit in the chair, keeping your knees from passing in front of your toes. Go halfway down and then stand back up. Repeat.

4. Calf Raises

A simple exercise that can be performed anywhere is the calf raise. Hold onto a wall or chair for balance and place your feet hip-width apart. Slowly raise your heels off the floor so you’re standing on your toes. Hold for a few seconds then lower back down. Repeat.

5. Step Ups

Another simple knee exercise is the step up. All you need is a stair, stepping stool, or aerobic step. Put your left foot on the stair and step up to tap your right foot on the stair and then lower it back to the floor. Do several repetitions and then switch feet.

6. Straight Leg Raises

To do straight leg raises, sit on the floor with your back against a wall or flat surface. Extend your right leg in front of you and slightly bend your left leg so your left foot is flat on the floor. Now slowly raise your right leg so it’s about 12 inches above the floor. Hold a couple seconds then slowly lower it back down. Do several repetitions, then switch legs.