Lets talk about the one thing most of us don’t think about often when it comes to keeping our bodies active, mobile and pain free:
In my opinion, knees tend to be overlooked and something we don’t pay much attention to in our lives (even I’ve been guilty of this!)
But if you think about it, our knees are incredibly important and play a huge role in supporting the body. They allow us to walk, run, bend down, drive, etc., and yet hardly anyone knows how to actually look after them.
Now, you might think that ‘exercising’ would be a good thing for you, and most of the time it is – it keeps you in great shape and is good for your joints. So, why wouldn’t it be good for you?
Here’s an example: if you like to go jogging it can sometimes do more harm than good.
Think of it in this way:
Each time you take a stride your leg is bending, causing your knee joints to work. Now think of how often and how long you would jog or run for? 10, 20 minutes? Maybe even more? This repetitiveness can have an effect on your knees over a long period of time.
Even walking can sometimes cause aches and pains in our knees if we don’t look after them.
We are recommended to do 10,000 steps a day, and with each step, we use our knees. If we manage to do the recommended steps then it is likely that your knees have been bent at least 10,000 times within the day! (That’s a lot of bending!)
Now, I’m not saying to avoid running and walking altogether, nope, what I want to share with you is why it’s important to prepare your body properly for these types of exercises (so aches and pains don’t keep us from being active and going about our daily lives)
Let’s take a look:
Show your knees some love whilst exercising, stretch before and after you exercise. With a warm up, a lot of people don’t realize that stretching beforehand can actually help you walk, jog, and run further and with more ease (and reduce the risk of injury!).
Cooling down has exactly the same principles. Stretching after exercise is key to easing stiffness in the morning. When you stretch your muscles after exercise, your body lets go of that lactic acid – aka the reason you are sore the next day.
Stretching after exercise also improves circulation and flexibility, helping you to ease any chances of knee pain.
If you work somewhere where you are doing heavy lifting all day, you may have been told over and over to ‘lift with your knees.’ Yes this is the safest way to lift, but remember to look after your knees when you come home!
Maybe you don’t work in this type of environment but often pick up your grandchildren after chasing them around the garden?
It’s a bit like a workout, it might even feel like it sometimes! But when you get home, make sure you stretch before you go to bed. Your knees have had extra strain on them as opposed to any other day, which could leave you in pain the next morning when you roll out of bed.
Now for those who love to garden when the sun’s out – How often do you plant your flowers kneeling down? This one may go without saying but this is probably one of the worst things you can do to your knees!
The amount of pressure you are putting on them is quite something! Not only are your knees supporting your full body weight, they are forced onto the hard ground and are kept in that position for over an hour!
Some of you reading this might not think it takes that long to plant new flowers. Or perhaps you stay on your knees because it’s easier to get up and get your tools?
Either way, your knees will be suffering. The best way to approach gardening, is to bring all your tools with you, get a cushion and bring over a knee rest too.
A lot of gardening shops have knee rests to help, although I understand sometimes even these can become uncomfortable.
My advice would be to try and use one, and if it becomes too much, sit on your bottom and use the cushion. You may even prefer to kneel on the knee rest with the cushion.
However the most crucial part is timing! Try not to kneel for longer than 10 minutes with a knee rest, get up often and move around before kneeling down again to get movement to your joints.
Yes, the gardening may take longer but you will be looking after your knees, and if you love gardening then you have nothing to lose!
So next time you have a slight ache or pain in your knees, don’t brush it off! Our knees are what keep us independent and living life to the full, remember that!
Dr. Tony Tanzi: Physical Therapist, Triathlete, Runner, Performance Coach