A bum knee or two can be problematic when you have to walk up and down the stairs at work or home. If you're carting groceries, stair climbing can become even more painful due to the added weight. Exercises that improve the strength and flexibility around your knees can help you take on those stairs without dreading discomfort or pain.
Reasons for Knee Problems
Sure, wear and tear on the cartilage around the knees as people age can contribute to knee pain. But knee pain is an equal opportunity health issue. Knee injuries and carrying too much weight on your body can cause you to struggle with stairs and feel discomfort. A fit body may be inside you struggling to get out, but until you shed the fat, the excess weight will continue to stress your knee joints.
Muscle-Strengthening Exercises for Knees
The muscles around your knees support your movements. Strengthening them can help you master one staircase after another with little to no pain. The quadriceps and hamstring muscles located on the fronts and backs of your thighs act as shock absorbers. By making them stronger, you relieve stress on your knees.
Sit on the floor with your hands by your sides resting on the floor and maintain a straight back. Bend your right leg, and place your foot flat on the floor. Keep your left leg straight and raise it 6 to 12 inches off the floor. Lower your leg to complete one repetition. Do 8 to 24 reps on each leg. When this exercise starts getting easy, add a 1-pound weight to your ankles. In addition to doing leg raises, you can also do leg extensions on a weight machine, or squats and lunges with or without dumbbells.
It's easier to avoid injuring your knees if the muscles around them are limber and loose. Stretching exercises are an important part of dealing with and preventing knee pain. You should do your stretching exercises after finishing strength exercises for your knees because muscle-strengthening exercises can actually tighten your muscles.
Sit on the floor with your hands resting on the floor near your knees. Maintain a straight back while flexing your feet toward your body. Hold the stretch for 10 counts, and then release. Repeat once more to stretch the muscles on the backs of your legs. Stand behind a chair, and hold on with your right hand. Lift your left leg up as if trying to touch your butt with your foot. Grab the left foot with your left hand, and pull it gently toward your body. Hold the stretch for 10 counts, before repeating on your right side.
Before you jump right in to a knee-strengthening program, see your doctor to make sure the exercises you plan to do are the best choice for your knee issues. Once you get the OK, start slowly and add more time to your exercise program as your knees get stronger. If you experience pain at any time, stop exercising and talk to your doctor. Excess jiggle on your body that's contributing to knee problems can be dealt with through cardio and a reduced-calorie diet. Discuss these issues with your doctor, too, for slow, safe weight loss and knee improvements.
Mary Ylisela is a former teacher with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and mathematics. She has been a writer since 1996, specializing in business, fitness and education. Prior to teaching, Ylisela worked as a certified fitness instructor and a small-business owner.