Hobbling around on one leg is a pain in the knee. Tightness in your knees limits your enjoyment of your favorite activities, such as walking your dog or taking hip-hop dance classes. Stretching and moving your knees regularly increases neural stimulation and blood flow, which can prevent chronic tightness. Take a break from your desk work every 20 to 30 minutes and move those stiff knees around.
The supine position places the least amount of pressure and stress on your knees. Use this position to warm up your knees before progressing to standing exercises. The active lying knee extension is where you lie on your back and bring one knee toward your chest. Hold the back of your knee with both hands and gradually extend your knee as much as possible. Flex your foot to increase the stretch that radiates from your calves to your hamstrings. Hold the stretch for three seconds and bend the knee back to the starting position. Repeat the stretch 10 times per leg. Your knee also rotates slightly in the horizontal plane. Turn your hip joint two to three times when you hold the knee extension, which will rotate the knee joint automatically.
Take a Stand
Most warm-up exercises that are performed by most track and field athletes can also be done at your desk. Examples include hip swings, front and side kicks and walking butt kicks. Control the speed and range of motion when you perform these exercises. Moving too quickly or too far can cause a strain or sprain in your tendons and ligaments, respectively. If you just want to stretch and relax, a simple standing toe touch with deep breathing can alleviate most of the tightness. Don't worry about looking silly to your co-workers. Eventually, they might join you to gain the benefits of regular stretching.
Active or Static?
Instead of holding a stretch for a period of time, exercise physiologist Len Kravitz suggests that you do active or dynamic stretching before training. This involves moving your joint in your range of motion repetitively and rhythmically in one direction, which stimulates your nervous system, increases body temperature and improves muscle elasticity. But you can do static stretching at the end of your workout. As you hold the knee extension, take several deep belly breaths to enhance the relaxation.
Chronic tightness in your knees can be a warning sign that your knee can have potential problems, such as osteoarthritis, ligament sprain or runner's knee. If you have pain or if the tightness won't go away, check with your health care provider before you start stretching.
- Stretch to Win; Ann and Chris Frederick
- University of New Mexico: Stretching: A Research Restrospective
- ExRx: Lying Hamstring Stretch
- Sports Injury Clinic: Knee Pain & Knee Injuries
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.