Most of us don’t ask themselves at various points throughout the day, “Am I doing right by my knees?” but considering how important they are to our mobility, perhaps we should start. The knee is the largest and one of the more important joints in our bodies and unfortunately, it also gets hurt the most. And as anyone with knee problems can attest to, once your knees are out of commission, life becomes a whole lot more difficult. That’s why it’s so important for us take care of our knees now to ensure a pain-free future.
We rely on our knees to carry us throughout the day, which already amounts to a lot of work on their part. Add in other factors like regular exercise or being overweight and our knees work overtime. Because they handle so much, sometimes knees give out over time without direct provocation. But there are also other factors that contribute to their weakening.
Generally, frequent exercise is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. It keeps our hearts and bodies strong and fit. But that doesn’t mean it’s always the best move for our joints, particularly if we jog, ride bikes, or play basketball, soccer, tennis, football, or volleyball—all of these activities put the most pressure on our knees. Anything that requires a lot of leg-twisting or jumping is bad for knees.
Getting injured while playing sports also increases the chances of developing osteoarthritis—a painful condition resulting from joint cartilage depletion—later in life.
Carrying Excess Weight
Being overweight or obese can also lead osteoarthritis. Any added pressure isn’t good for knees, and adding more weight than the body is built to handle makes even the simplest of activities that much more taxing on joints.
Women have eight times the risk of developing knee problems than men. Speculated reasons for this vary, but most believe it has to do with one of two facts—first, that women generally have wider hips than men, meaning there’s more of an angle between the knee and thighbone, which puts extra pressure on the knees. The second theory is that the hormones involved in a woman’s menstrual cycle can negatively affect joint ligaments.
Putting a Stop to Knee Problems
Knee issues might be something that just happens with time, but we should still do everything we can to prevent them. What’s even better is that these actions benefit our whole bodies, not just our knees.
Protecting knees doesn’t mean ceasing all physical activity. In fact, doing so will only contribute to their weakening and potential for damage. I already mentioned the sports that impact knees the most, but not everyone wants to give up daily runs or tennis games. Instead, incorporate these acts into your routines.
- Pre- and post-exercise stretching
- Pre-exercise warmup to loosen the muscles
- Weight lifting, with a focus on strengthening leg muscles (especially the quadriceps)
- Regular yoga sessions to increase muscle flexibility and strength
- Keep exercise intensity steady and balanced
- Wear kneepads if you play volleyball (or do anything that requires a lot of bent-knee time)
- Look into exercises that promote good knee health (O Magazine lists a few)
- Cross-train to give the entire body a workout and keep muscles equally strong
Runners in particular run into a host of painful knee conditions. According to Runner’s World magazine, they should gradually increase mileage and hill running, focus on stretching muscles, and avoid hard surfaces like concrete.
Those with existing knee problems shouldn’t eschew exercise, either. Try swimming and other water-based exercises to keep pressure off the knees while improving aerobic endurance.
Maintain foot health.
It’s also important to wear suitable shoes for whatever activity you’re doing. Replace them regularly so that you’re not working out in harmful shoes. Beyond exercise, issues like flat feet can also add to knee problems; shoe inserts should help.
Carrying too much excess weight can lead to arthritis, which makes movement in general very difficult—plus it increases the risk of many other debilitating conditions and diseases.
These small changes in our daily lives will have a hugely positive impact on our bodies in the long run. It’s hard to realize just how integral good knee health is until we lose it and realize the frustration and pain of limited mobility from faulty knees. But with these handy tips at our disposal, hopefully we can prevent, or at least put off, experiencing that.