Whether you're an avid runner or play a team sport, keeping your knees healthy is an effective way to remain in the action and away from the physiotherapy clinic. Although you can't actually strengthen your knee joints themselves, building the muscles in your upper and lower leg helps support your knee joint and lessen your risk of sustaining an injury.
Strengthening your quadriceps, the muscles on the fronts of your thighs, is an effective way to keep your knees healthy. Lunges target your quadriceps, while also working the rest of your leg muscles. You can perform lunges with or without weights. To execute a lunge, stand with your feet together, then take a large step forward with either foot. Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your back knee is just above the floor, then stand back up and repeat the exercise with the other foot forward.
It's important to strengthen your hamstrings, the large muscles found on the back of each leg, especially if you play sports. An effective way to strengthen your hamstrings is with a stability ball. Lie on your back and place your heels on a stability ball. Lift your hips off the floor, then bend your knees to pull the ball toward your glutes. Keeping your torso as steady as possible, straighten your legs to push the ball away from your body.
To strengthen your calves, the muscles along the backs of your lower legs, you don't necessarily need weights. A simple, effective exercise is a calf raise. Stand on a platform or step with your heels hanging over the edge. Lower your heels so they drop below your toes, then press through the balls of your feet to raise your heels up until you're standing on your toes. To add resistance to this exercise, hold a barbell across your shoulders. To target each leg individually, hold one foot off the ground while you perform this exercise.
Before any type of activity, stretch the muscles that you plan to use to limit the chances of developing a muscle strain. "Shape" magazine recommends dynamic stretches before your workout and traditional static stretches afterward. Dynamic stretches include kicks and power skipping. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new workout regimen.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.