Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Coach Laura: Knees

Dear Coach Laura,

Which exercise is best for someone with knee problems?

Dear Bees-Knees,

Knee problems area huge deterrent to wanting to and being able to exercise!  And your knees are an integral part of how the body moves, supports itself - everything! If you want to focus on good aerobic exercise and you already have knee problems, some good options are swimming, biking, walking and low-impact aerobics. (The definition of "low-impact" means that both feet are never off the ground at the same time.) Oh, yoga is a great one too! (There's a great article here with additional information.)

If you're concerned about developing knee problems and have heard horror stories about how horrible running is for your knees - take that with a grain of salt. I used to consider myself as having knee problems. I played the position of catcher on a championship high school softball team, and there was definitely wear and tear put on my knees during that time. I also got tackled during a friendly game of flag football (hopefully you sense the irony in that sentence) and my knee buckled in an awkward position. I used those two reasons for years as excuses as to why I couldn't consistently exercise - if my knee started to hurt while exercising, it seemed like a good reason to take a few days off from exercising. So I never got into a regular routine of exercising. 

The irony of the cycle of making excuses is that regular exercise actually increases joint strength, muscle strength and flexibility and overall strength. 

Another factor in knee pain is the simple mechanics of weight. Every ten pounds of body weight means 40 pounds of pressure on the knee. If you're even 10 pounds overweight, you're adding an additional unnecessary 400 pounds on your knees. If you are in the beginning stages of knee pain, losing weight is a great way to reduce pressure and knee pain. 

Guess what? I don't have any consistent knee pain anymore. By losing weight and exercising regularly, knee pain and discomfort that I had experienced for decades (yes, decades!) is completely gone. The last piece to the puzzle of eliminating my own knee pain was to make sure I stretch both my quads and hamstrings after exercising. Quads (the large muscles in the front of the thigh) are easy to stretch because we're so often aware of them. They're the ones that make themselves known in the form of muscle tightness and soreness when doing squats, lunges, running, cycling, walking -- anything, really. 

The hamstrings are the quads' supporting muscles - the muscles on the back of the thigh. They are frequently neglected and forgotten, poor things. Since they support the quads, which are major muscles in promoting knee joint motion and movement, it's equally important they get stretched. I have found that making sure all the major muscles in my legs get stretched after working out has made all the difference in my overall knee health. 

Next week we'll look at what the BEST exercise overall is that you can do. Stay tuned!

To your health,

Coach Laura


1 comment:

AskTheGeologist said...

Thanx... that was both helpful and encouraging.