Whether it’s due to arthritis or another issue, knee pain is fairly common among older adults. In fact, it’s actually pretty common among young adults, too, especially those who have spent years playing high impact sports. If you have knee pain, it can be difficult to continue some of the exercises and sports you love, but it’s still important to stay active. Here are some tips for knee- and senior-friendly exercise:
- Pick sports that are low impact. This doesn’t mean you have to just play bocce ball or something with little movement. Rowing a canoe or kayak, bicycling and even cross country skiing are easy on the knees.
- Avoid exercises that require you to twist your knees and hips. This can include playing soccer or basketball, but might also include particular yoga or tai chi poses. When you sign up for a new class at the gym, let the instructor know of your knee pain so that she or he can work with you to modify the movements and poses.
- If you’re doing circuit training or stretches and aerobics, it’s important to avoid deep squats, lunges and full-arc knee extensions, which require bending too far and putting too much weight on your knees. No one should bend their knees in a way that causes them to stick out past your toes, but many people don’t realize this when they are new to stretching or a particular exercise.
- It’s important to strengthen the muscles around your knees so that they can be better supported. You can do side-lying leg lifts, calf raises, straight-leg raises and hamstring stretches lying down, which will take the pressure off your knees.
If you have knee problems, don’t try any new exercises without consulting with your doctor first. Some doctors will refer you to a physical therapist or orthopedic doctor, who will show you basic stretches and support exercises that can protect and strengthen the muscles around your knees. They might also recommend you purchase a particular knee brace that can support your knees in the right way while you walk or run.
Eating broccoli might also help! A new study found that sulforaphane, a chemical that is released when we eat broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables, can slow down the destruction of cartilage and help protect our knees and other joints from osteoarthritis.