If your knees are bothering you, try these low-impact exercises to get them strong again!
Strong muscles are essential for maintaining happy and healthy joints. That’s because we want to use our muscles, not our joints, to bear our weight. If we have weak and underused muscles, our joints are forced to do more work, which leads to wear and tear over time.
When it comes to keeping our knees strong, healthy and mobile, we need strong muscles not just around our knees but also throughout our legs, hips, and core. Yes, that means that strong quadriceps, hamstrings, inner-outer thighs, glutes, calves, hips, and abdominals all mean healthier knees!
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If you don’t have issues with your knees, then exercising the surrounding muscles is a lot easier than if you are already dealing with knee-pain and instability. Luckily, no matter where you are today, there are great low-impact exercises that can strengthen surrounding muscles, stabilize your knees, and keep them pain-free.
Practice these five low-impact exercises two or three times per week. Warm-up with a 5-10 minute walk to get the knee joints lubricated and warm. The only equipment you’ll need is a low step or a yoga block, and you’re ready to go!
Straight Leg Lifts | 5 reps per side
This gentle exercise strengthens the quadriceps, core, and hips.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Place your palms face down alongside your body.
- Straighten your right leg down the mat and flex your foot.
- Inhale to lift the right leg off about a foot off the ground. Hold for 5 seconds, squeezing your quads and lower abs. Then, slowly lower the leg back down.
- Repeat for 5 reps, then switch legs.
Heel Slides | 10 reps per side
Stabilize the backs of your knees with this exercise that focuses on the hamstrings.
- Remain on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Reach your arms down alongside your body.
- Straighten your right leg down the mat and flex the foot. Keep a slight bend in the knee.
- Take an exhale as you slide your right heel in towards your right glute, bending the knee.
- Then, inhale to slide the foot back out until the leg is almost straight.
- Repeat for 10 reps, then switch legs.
Step Up | 5 reps per side
Strengthen your thighs, hips, and core with this low-impact exercise.
- Stand in front of a low step or a yoga block on the lowest height. Put your hands on your hips.
- Place your right foot up onto the step, engage your abs and lift your back foot off the ground. Balance here for 5 seconds, then slowly lower back down.
- Repeat for 5 reps, then switch legs.
Wall Squat | 5 reps
This easy squat variation provides extra support to the knees while strengthening the thighs and core.
- Stand with your back against a wall. Keep your back on the wall as you walk your feet forward about 2-3 feet. Reach your arms straight out in front of you and engage your abs.
- Slide your hips down the wall until they are in line with your knees to come into a squat. If you are new to this exercise or it feels like too much, you can try to just slide down about halfway.
- Engage your quads and inner thighs, and really press down through your feet. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then press through your heels to stand back up.
- Repeat for 5 wall squats.
Calf Raises | 10 reps
Weak ankles and calves can lead to knee pain and instability. This simple exercise helps to prevent that.
- Stand next to a wall or chair. Place your left hand on the wall and your right hand on your hip. Bring your feet hip-width distance apart.
- Inhale to lift high onto the balls of your feet. Flex your calves at the top and hold for 3 seconds, then lower your heels back down.
- Repeat for 10 calf raises.
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