Long-distance runners and hikers all experience the same types of pain as they grow older. Much of that pain will be focused in the knees. That’s because the cartilage there will begin to break down due to the tremendous force of impact. And that’s what happens each time your feet strike the ground. Running is great for your health, but you need to resort to other ways of protecting the rest of your body.
These are the best ways to spare your knees so you can continue running well into old age!
According to certified health coach Neal Pire, “Squat really affects all of the muscles around the knee joint.” Doing several repetitions of squat exercises each day can make the quadriceps, glutes, and all the muscles around the all-important knee joint stronger. Stronger muscles mean less breakdown due to overuse. Performing lunges as an alternative can achieve the same result.
Step-ups are another exercise that increases relevant muscle mass. “You’re lifting your body,” according to Pire, “like you would going up the stairs. Keeping the hip joint muscles strong and well-conditioned along with muscles around the ankle strong and well-conditioned will help minimize the risk of injury at the knee joint.” Of course, you could just go up and down stairs.
Chief of sports medicine Siffri at Greenville Health System in Greenville, South Carolina said, “A good core strengthening program is important and paramount to the health of your knees, hips and lower extremities — so [do] a lot of abdominal exercises and lower back exercises.” The plank position is a great core-building exercise. It might be time to start doing yoga!
If you already suffer from damage to your knee joints, it’s important to reduce or eliminate running until that damage can be repaired (if possible at all). Walking might be a safer, healthier alternative.
An elliptical machine can provide your legs and knees with a strenuous workout that isn’t too rough on the knees. Siffri said, “Your foot is planted against a platform — so there’s not that repetitive impact that can also lead to degradation of cartilage over time.”
Riding a bicycle is also a low-impact activity that can really benefit your knees by increasing the muscle mass of calves and quads.
You may have realized that exercising most every muscle in your body will help protect your knee joints. That’s because equilibrium is an important part of maintaining a single joint. Before trying to perform those exercises, though, ask your doctor if conditions like osteoarthritis or a previous knee injury could make it worse.