How long do you want to live?
Weird question, right? And probably not one you’re asked very often.
Most of us would say we’d be happy to see 90 or 100, provided we could do so in good health and without pain.
Living to 100 may seem a lofty goal, but improving quality of life at any age certainly isn’t. It can be as simple as avoiding injuries and preventing muscle and joint pain.
One of the tricks is knowing how to protect your knees.
As we age, our knees are one of the first places we begin to feel pain. We hear them crack as we get out of bed, or pop as we bend down to tie our shoelaces.
What do you do if your knees are causing you pain? Most people’s first reaction is to avoid exercise. But you don’t have to!
Can You Exercise with Sore Knees? In short, yes! (Of course, you should always consult with your doctor if you suffer from chronic conditions or injuries.)
In fact, exercising can actually HELP your sore knees.
Our knees are surrounded by a variety of muscles, including the quadriceps and hamstrings. Strengthening these muscles will increase knee support, and make your knees healthier and stronger.
Here are 3 exercises to strengthen your quads and hammies:
- For The Warmup… The Inchworm
A proper warm-up with some stretching is recommended to loosen up the muscles and get them ready to work. The inchworm is a great hamstring stretch. Stand up, then slowly lower your hands to the floor and walk them out into a modified push-up position. Slowly walk your feet towards your hands without rounding your back. Once you feel the stretch, walk your hands back out again.
- For the Quadriceps- Squats
One of the best exercises for sore knees is a squat. It mimics an everyday movement (bending down), and it works all of those knee-supporting muscles.
Start out using only your own weight and slowly lower your body so your thighs are parallel to the floor, hips square, and knees not extending over your toes. Squeeze your glute and hamstring muscles as you return to a standing position.
Prisoner squats — performed with your hands behind your head and elbows pulled back — are an effective variation that offers a bit more of a challenge. If you want an even more challenging option, try a Y-squat, with your arms extended straight out at an angle to form a Y.
Remember to focus on keeping your back straight — not rounded. If you want a little less stress on your back, try doing squats against a wall, either with or without a stability ball. Place your back against a wall and lower down into a squat. Hold it for a set period of time and then slowly come up. Adding a stability ball will make lowering into a squat a little easier.
- For The Hamstrings… One-legged Deadlifts
Deadlifts, hip extensions and roll-ins are all great exercises to build up the hamstrings. Try a one-legged, rear deadlift by standing on one leg and lifting the other off of the floor. With your one leg slightly bent, slowly bend forward, extending the other leg as you lean over.
One-legged Deadlifts (normal)
One-legged Deadlifts (assisted)
Keep your back neutral. Be sure to squeeze your hamstring muscles through both the concentric and eccentric part of the movement.
Roll-ins with a stability ball are also effective. Lie down and place your heels on top of a stability ball, elevate your hips and then bring your knees into your chest as the ball rolls towards you. Then push it back out. If you prefer to not use the ball, you can simply lie flat on the floor, squeeze your glutes and raise your hips off the floor.
To make it more challenging for the hamstrings, raise one leg when you lift your hips up and continue with this alternating legs.
These exercises will strengthen and stabilize the muscles around your knees, moving you one step closer to being pain free.