What’s the best exercise for arthritic knees? This question is on the minds of anyone who has painful knees due to arthritis, but wants to stay active and enjoy all the physical activities they love.
Arthritis is a disease that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in your joints. It’s common in knees. The most common types are osteoarthritis and post-traumatic arthritis.
Arthritis wears away your cartilage — the cushioning between the three bones of your knee joint. Without that protection, your bones rub against each other. This can cause pain, stiffness and limited movement.
If you’re age 50 or older, you have a higher risk of getting knee arthritis. (My.ClevelandClinic.org)
Although there is no cure for knee arthritis, strengthening the muscles that surround the knee joint can help support and stabilize the knee, which can help reduce pain and improve function. The trick is to find a way to do the strengthening exercises in a way that doesn’t hurt while you’re doing them.
And that’s what I cover in this video.
What’s the best exercise for arthritic knees?
Rob, one of my subscribers, recently emailed me about this topic.
“I could use some suggestions on exercises for my joints affected by arthritis. Specifically knee and wrist/hand joints.”
(I’ll cover exercises for wrist and hand arthritis in a future post.)
Rob, the winning formula for strength training with arthritic knees is a 3 step process –
Step One: Choose a safe, lower body pushing exercise. Safe means you can exit the exercise at any point, and you don’t have to rely on balance or a high degree of athletic skill to perform the exercise correctly. (So barbell squats are out).
Step Two: Position your feet properly to minimize shear force on your knee joints.
Step Three: Choose the ideal repetition speed to fully eliminate the force of momentum.
When you put all 3 steps together successfully, you’ll be performing the best exercise for arthritic knees, no matter what type of equipment you have available.
Check out this video to learn how to perform the best exercise for arthritic knees:
Can exercise reverse knee arthritis?
Exercise doesn’t reverse damage that’s already done. But it can prevent arthritis from getting worse. That can make a huge difference on the joints that support most of the body’s weight, such as the knees.
“Six times your body weight goes through the inside of the knee,” says UCLA Medical Center rheumatologist Roy Altman.
“The one thing that people don’t understand is that you have to do something,” Altman says. “When you don’t do anything with osteoarthritis of the knee, arthritis actually gets worse.”
Altman says. “If your muscles are weak, that adds direct pressure that’s not very good for the knee. If the muscles are stronger, you reduce that pressure that goes through the knee and improve the function.”
How can I improve arthritis in my knees?
Movement and exercise are super important for improving arthritis symptoms.
Arthritis slowly breaks down the body’s natural shock absorbers, the cartilage, that jelly-like substance between our bones and in our joints. When that happens, blood doesn’t circulate as freely and doesn’t deliver adequate nutrition to the cartilage.
All the cartilage nutrition, says Altman, comes through the joint. Massaging the joint through exercise helps get the blood supply going which, in turn, helps cartilage take in nutrition.
Another big plus for exercising through arthritis pain: Muscles surround the joint, and when muscles are bigger and stronger, the joint is more protected.
By exercising, those muscles take up the weight and take up the pressure, instead of the joint absorbing the force of the weight and the pressures. This reduces the stressors on the joint itself.
Can you strengthen a knee with arthritis?
Strength and mobility exercises are among the most important things people with osteoarthritis can do for their knees. These exercises can relieve pain, strengthen the joints, and improve joint function. There’s no need to worry about damaging your joints if you do the right kind of exercises.
Many people with osteoarthritis avoid activity and exercise for fear of putting additional strain on their joints and wearing them out faster. But there’s no need to worry about that: In fact, lack of movement is bad for the joints.
For one thing, movement is important for the metabolic processes in the joint cartilage. Also, exercise can strengthen muscles, improve joint stability, and increase range of motion. This not only protects the knee but also helps in everyday life – for example, when climbing stairs or getting up from a chair.
Even if your joints hurt, it’s usually best to keep moving. But many people who have painful and stiff joints find that hard to do. That’s why it’s very important to find the right type of exercise. Having a Coach can help avoid painful mistakes and also motivate you.
Even if your body first has to get used to activity and exercise and is a little tired afterward, studies show that it’s worth staying active. Regularly doing strength training exercises and activity can relieve pain and improve joint function after only a few weeks. Many people also feel better when they exercise because it increases your general sense of well-being, increases confidence in your own body, and helps clear your head.
Is walking good for arthritis in the knee?
Walking is recommended for people with arthritis, because it’s low impact and helps bone health.
Other benefits of choosing walking to keep active include:
- You have the flexibility choose the distance and pace that suits you.
- It’s a free activity which can be done pretty much anywhere. Whether that’s around the block, a stroll around town or a lap around the local park.
- Being out in nature and getting fresh air has been proven to help boost mindset.
If you’re just starting out on a regular walking program, start slowly with a manageable walk each day, thinking about what works with your daily routine.
Once you’ve got used to walking more regularly, you can choose to gradually lengthen your walks, or maybe you could walk more frequently each week.
If the weather is bad outside, no need to miss your walk – just find the nearest indoor shopping mall and walk there. (Just make sure to leave your credit card home 😉.)
Knee arthritis exercises to avoid
- Any exercise involving twisting with your feet planted, like throwing a medicine ball while rotating your trunk
- anything involving jumping
- High impact running
Summary: The best way to exercise with arthritic knees
- Although there is no cure for knee arthritis, strengthening the muscles that surround the knee joint can help support and stabilize the knee, which can help reduce pain and improve function.
- Choose a safe, lower body pushing exercise. Safe means you can exit the exercise at any point, and you don’t have to rely on balance or a high degree of athletic skill to perform the exercise correctly.
- Position your feet directly under your knees to minimize shear force on your knee joints.
- Lift the weight to the finish position in about 10 seconds without using momentum.
- Smoothly change direction and lower the weight in about 10 seconds.
- Change direction slowly when you start the next rep, without bouncing or slamming the weights.
- Keep constant tension on the working muscles the whole time to maximize the muscle building effects while sparing your joints.
- If in doubt about your exact speed, go slower, never faster.
- Any exercise that involves jumping, twisting, high impact, catching or balancing has no place in your routine.