It's one of those cruel facts of life: As you age, so do your joints. Suddenly, the stuff you could do as a teen becomes a little more painful in your 20s and 30s -- thanks a lot, Father Time. If your knees have gotten a little creaky with age, it's important that you give them proper protection when exercising your legs. After all, you want exercise to help preserve your body, not cause pain. By giving your knees a little extra TLC, you can create healthy, strong, sculpted legs sans knee pain.
Focus on leg exercises that are low impact. For instance, instead of running on the treadmill, hop the elliptical instead. If you miss sweating it up in an aerobics class, try a spin class to sweat without pain. Both will still provide your legs with a solid workout, but using smoother motions and with less impact on your knee joints.
Check your form before you do any leg exercise that requires extension of the knee -- which is pretty much all of them. When squatting or doing lunges, for instance, your knee should never extend past your ankle. Doing leg extensions, keep your knees soft and avoid locking them. If you're unsure of the proper form for a leg exercise, skip it until you can ask a fitness pro, since doing it wrong can land you in pain city.
Wear proper shoes for the sport or activity you're doing. When jumping or running for leg strength, both your ankle and knee take the brunt of the impact. When your shoes are unsupportive, your joints take even more of a hit. Get professionally fitted for a pair of shoes made especially for the activity you're doing so your knees have a little extra protection.
Exercise and stretch your knees for better strength and stability. Stronger knees mean knees that are less prone to injury. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests a knee-strengthening program that includes exercises like hamstring curls, leg presses and leg extensions, and raises to help strengthen your knees and keep them flexible.
Wear a brace on one or both knees when doing leg exercises. A brace won't completely prevent any injury and won't make up for poor form, but it can help stabilize your knee so it's less prone to twisting and rolling. A knee brace can also help you focus on your form so protecting your knees is fresh in your mind during any leg exercise.
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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.