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Giving Your Knees What They Need:
Here's How to Keep Them Healthy

The following tips will go a long way to keep your knees working properly:

(Article continued below.)

  • Warm up before working out and start off slow.
    Cold muscles are more prone to cause injuries. Even if you're just going for a walk, you should begin at an easy pace before picking up speed.
  • Stretch your leg muscles when you're done working out.
    Like cold muscles, tight muscles are more likely to cause injuries. Stretch all the leg muscles in your thighs and lower legs - every last one of them has an impact on your knees. Keep your limbs flexible and you're less likely to hurt yourself.
  • Strengthen the muscles around your knee.
    This is one of the most important tips of all. Many knees are damaged because the leg muscles aren't as strong as they should be, which puts too much stress on the knee joint. If your knees are in good health, squats and lunges are great overall strengtheners. These should not be the only types of moves you should practice, however. To keep your legs muscles in their best shape, you should mix lunges and squats with non-weight bearing resistance exercises such as leg extensions and hamstring curls. In fact, if your knees are already bothersome to you, the best thing you can do (providing it's okay with your primary care provider) is non-weight bearing exercises so that you can strengthen your legs. Stronger leg muscles have helped a lot of people who thought their knees might be going bad. And don't forget your abductor and adductor muscles - the inner and outer thigh muscles - these are very important to knee health, too. Plié squats and side leg lifts are a couple of good exercises for them.
  • Always use good form.
    This goes for everything, from performing a squat to Yoga's Warrior I pose to changing the 5 gallon Sparkletts bottle or planting a row of seedlings. The general rule of thumb for static positions is to keep your knee in line with your ankle, not to one side or the other, and your knees should never extend beyond your toes. Don't remain in one position for extended periods of time - while planting those seedlings, for example, stand up frequently and stretch your legs. If you are walking or running, check your gait. Are you favoring one leg over the other? Are you rolling your feet inwards or outwards? You may have some bad habits you're not even aware of - it's a good idea to have a fitness trainer watch you and offer suggestions. A fifty-dollar session with a trainer may save you thousands of dollars and the pain of surgery down the line.
  • Buy great athletic shoes.
    It's amazing what a difference a good pair of shoes can make - your legs will feel so much better. Make sure your shoes are right for your activity - shoes for aerobics offer a different type of support than running shoes. Since a quality pair of shoes can be pricey, you can get away with cross trainers in many cases - low impact aerobics and weight training can be done on the same shoe. Walking and occasional running can be done on the same shoe. But if you're serious about running, you need shoes specific to that activity. Same thing with aerobic dance. And buy news ones every 500 miles - that generally works out to every six to nine months. Use special inserts, such as arch supports, if you need them. Many people don't realize the importance of wearing the right athletic shoes - don't be one of them! Once you have experienced how much the proper shoe enhances your enjoyment of your favorite activities (and how better your feet and legs feel), you'll never go back to old, worn-out shoes again.
  • Avoid being overweight.
    Being over your ideal weight puts a lot of strain on your knees. So if you need to shed a few pounds, try to buckle down and do so. Your knees - and many other parts of your body - will thank you.
  • Change up your exercise routine.
    Your muscles get the most benefit when you keep them guessing - they develop more evenly if they're developed from all angles. When some of your leg muscles are overdeveloped and others underdeveloped, you are putting your knees at risk. Mix up running with weight training with Yoga with Pilates with aerobic dance with swimming with your favorite sport - or some variation thereof. A side benefit is that you'll never get bored with exercise!
  • Try glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate.
    While scientific tests haven't yet been completed, there is much evidence pointing to the usefulness of these supplements. Glucosamine helps support the cartilage. While small amounts of glucosamine are produced by the body, this decreases with age. Chondroitin works in conjunction with glucosamine to promote joint health. You can buy these supplements at most health food and supplement stores - often they're combined in one tablet. Although these supplements don't yet have the FDA's stamp of approval, they've been used in Europe for many years, and many American athletes (both professionals and weekend warriors) swear by them. At the very least, they are worth looking into.

But what happens if, in spite of your best efforts you end up with a wrenched knee? Here's what you can do.

Next page >> When You've Hurt Your Knee >> Page 1, 2, 3

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