How to Get Fit When You Have Arthritic Knees

Low-impact exercise is easier on your knees.

Low-impact exercise is easier on your knees.

Arthritis in the knee can be the result of many things -- from a bad spill you took while running a marathon, to rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that can affect you at any age and causes the degeneration of knee cartilage. And while other people your age might be running 5k's, taking kickboxing classes or hitting the treadmills for exercise, you might need a decidedly gentler approach. By giving your knees a little respect and care, you can continue to exercise even with limitations.

Invest in a supportive pair of workout shoes. The Arthritis Foundation suggests shoes that are supportive, roomy and flexible, with soles that help absorb impact before it reaches your knees. You may need to test drive a couple different pairs or add orthotics before you find the shoe that is right for you.

Adjust your workout intensity during flare-ups. Arthritic knees can be tricky, especially because some days will feel better than others. If your knees are in pain, look for lower-impact methods for exercise and save higher-impact days for when you're feeling a bit better. Keep in mind that your knees should never hurt while exercising. While they might be a bit stiff, stop exercising if you actually feel pain during a workout session.

Break your exercise up into smaller sessions to fulfill your workout requirements without totally killing your knees. The CDC suggests that even those who suffer from arthritis get 30 minutes of exercise five days per week, plus two days of strength training. If exercising 30 minutes straight causes your knees to scream, try doing three 10-minute sessions instead.

Try low-impact aerobic or cardiovascular activities that raise your heart rate without hurting your knees. Water aerobics, using an elliptical or cycling can help fulfill this requirement. Plan for at least 30 minutes per day, broken up however feels best to you.

Add two days of strength training to your workout routine to help build muscle. The American Council on Exercise suggests using isotonic exercises, which involve contracting your muscles without actually moving the joint, to limit pain. Lifting weights can also be beneficial, as well as using resistance bands or even just your own body weight to build strength. Just watch your form -- overextending your knee past your ankle during a lunge, for example, could cause you pain.

Participate in some form of flexibility training a couple times per week. Not only can it help you stay fit, but flexibility training in the form of stretching or yoga can help you retain a better range of motion in your knee. Just let your instructor know about your arthritis ahead of time and she can suggest modifications that are easy on your knees while you pose, stretch and extend your way to fitness.

 

About the Author

Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.

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