How to Protect Your Knees During Exercise
Our knees and other joints do so much for us during our everyday lives. If you do any form of exercise, you probably put more stress on your knees than you realize, and this can have consequences later in life. So many long distance runners no longer run anymore because they have pain in their knees from worn joints, a past injury, or osteoarthritis. This is why it is so important to prevent the long term effects of physical stress on your knees. The time to begin protecting your knees is now!
How to Prevent Knee Injury
Protecting Knees While Running
Running is a very common exercise that has many heart-strengthening and endurance-boosting benefits. It is often recognized as one of the best exercises to help burn fat and lose weight. All that is needed is a good pair of running shoes and a safe place to run. However, the proper way to run is not well known. The typical pattern that most new runners use is striking the ground at the cushioned heel of the running shoe and then rolling the foot forward to the ball of the foot. Although most running shoes have that extra cushioning, this still shoots a lot of impact up to the knee joint. Many runners use the newer barefoot running shoes because the manufacturers claim that they are easier on the knees and feet, but if the runner does not use the correct running technique, they can actually end up causing more injury.
A much safer way to run is by striking the ground at the ball of the foot first, and then lowering the heel to the ground, if at all. This makes running much lighter and much easier on the knees, though it may take time to get accustomed to running this way since it activates different muscles in the leg. This same technique also applies to other impact exercises such as plyometrics, which involves lots of jumping. The ball of the foot should hit the ground first, and the knees should be soft and bent rather than locked and straight. If impact exercises still cause pain in your knee joints, it may be helpful for you to use a knee brace. Always remember that it is better to take care of your body rather than "push through the pain."
Lower Body Exercises
Lower body exercises include things like squats and lunges. These are great for lifting and toning the lower body and thighs. A common mistake with these types of exercise is pushing the bent knee past the toes, which puts strain and pressure on the joint. This is especially harmful if extra weight is used for the squats and lunges.
The proper way to do these exercises is to focus on keeping the knee in a vertical line with the ankle, and never push the knee any further than the toes. This will keep the knee in a natural position where it can effectively lift without strain or injury. Doing these exercises near a mirror is particularly helpful so the exerciser can watch the angle of the knees from the side.
Yoga and Stretching
Yoga and stretching improve the area of fitness that is often overlooked: flexibility. In addition to reducing stress, yoga and stretching preserve range of motion that the body may lose with age. These exercises also make the body more limber and help to lengthen muscles. For a person who is inflexible, certain poses can put strain on the knees, but this can be easily avoided. Two examples of these poses in yoga include the lotus and pigeon pose.
Particularly for those who already have knee problems, a simple technique for reducing knee stress is to actively flex the foot. Doing this activates the tibialis anterior, the muscle at the front of the leg that can be seen when the foot is flexed. When engaged, this muscle helps stabilize and protect the knee. This is very beneficial for those who are not accustomed to some of the twists and turns in the joints that are involved in many yoga poses.