Have you ever considered what your knees go through on a daily basis? Just being able to stand straight depends on our knees.
Think about how many times you stand up and sit down during a normal day. Walking means that they work a little harder. If you go dancing, or running, or play sport, you are asking your knees to act as shock absorbers, while taking most of your weight. It’s no wonder that, as we grow older, our knees begin to show wear-and-tear. Arthritis may also add to the discomfort and pain.
The good news is that it is not just a matter of grinning and bearing it… You can manage the pain in your knees, by doing targeted knee exercises for seniors!
Please click the button below to download a free PDF of the exercises in this article:
Keep in Mind:
Before starting any new exercise(s), we strongly recommend you follow the advice of the National Institute on Aging and consult your doctor.
Benefits of Knee Exercises
It is natural for pain to develop in our knees as we mature. Exercises will strengthen the muscles around your knees, so there will be less strain on your knees. They also allow the joint to keep moving, which adds to managing the pain.
It is best to be advised by a medical professional when you begin exercising, so that your programme of exercise is tailored to suit you and your knees. Generally, you should aim to exercise at least 30 minutes on five days a week. You can split your 30 minutes up during the day, to perhaps two sets of 15 minutes, or even three sets of 10 minutes. (Holden et al, 2014)
Before beginning any new exercises, it is best to consult your doctor.
For each of the exercises described below, you should do a number of repetitions. Begin with 10 on each side and add to this as you get fitter.
If you feel any pain in your knee, stop the exercise and consult a medical professional.
Exercises to Strengthen Your Knees
To give your knees the ‘edge’ and to help them to cope with the strains of everyday life, you should do exercises that will strengthen them.
Rear Knee Flex
The rear knee flex is a good warm up exercise.
When you perform a knee flex, make sure that the movement is smooth, as you raise and lower your leg, and stand strongly on the supporting leg.
When you perform a side step-up, you will place a little more weight on your knee, so that you use your muscle on top of your thigh even more.
To do this exercise, you may need to support yourself by holding onto the back of a chair, pressing against the wall, or holding a banister.
While you are performing a side step-up, keep your body straight.
Sit to Stand
Sit to stand is an exercise that allows you to practise the everyday action of sitting and standing repeatedly, so that your muscles really do have a chance to become stronger.
When you perform a sit to stand, make sure that you do so slowly and steadily, focusing carefully on using your thigh muscles to do so.
A wall squat is similar to a full squat, but puts a lot less strain on your knees. To perform this exercise, you will need to work against an open piece of wall.
When you perform a wall squat, make sure that you slide up and down the wall at a slow and steady rate.
Exercises for Seniors with Bad Knees
Don’t allow stiffness or pain in your knees to stop you from doing what you want to do – use these exercises to strengthen your muscles, which will help to relieve the pain in your knees.
To perform a calf raise, you may need to support yourself. Hold onto the back of a chair with one hand, or support yourself against a wall.
Remember that performing calf raises is a slow and steady process.
For a leg extension, sit back in the chair, and do sit up straight.
When you perform the leg extension, focus on tightening your thigh muscles.
Straight Leg Raises
Straight leg raises are performed lying on the floor.
Do not extend your leg further than is comfortable.
Do not over-stretch your muscle or your knee.
Repeat the leg raise exercise.
Exercises for Arthritis in the Knee
As you mature, arthritis may creep into your joints and make your knees ache. This may be exacerbated if you have played sport for a long time.
There are some exercises that will help to strengthen your muscles, so that your knee does not take as much strain and you will be able to manage the pain just a bit better.
When you begin doing hamstring stretches, you may find that your leg will not stretch far. This will improve as your muscle warms up and you become more limber.
Only do this stretch as far as your leg will allow you to. Stop if it hurts.
The pillow squeeze focuses on strengthening the muscles inside your legs, but also uses all your thigh muscles.
The exercise can be performed sitting or standing.
Seated pillow squeeze:
When you perform the leg extension, focus on tightening your thigh muscles.
Lying pillow squeeze:
This form of the pillow squeeze relaxes your whole body and focuses on your legs.
To perform a side step, you must begin by standing in a neutral position, with your feet about hip width apart.
You can also do this exercise with your legs bent slightly, so that you are using your thigh muscles a bit more.
In side-step, keep the movement smooth, swopping from side-to-side.
Knee Pain Exercises for Seniors
Your quadriceps are major muscles that link to your knees.
Performing a quad stretch helps to stretch and strengthen those muscles. You will need to balance on one leg for this exercise, so make sure you hold onto the back of a chair, or support yourself against a wall.
Performing a quad stretch pulls on your muscles, so it should be performed slowly and steadily.
Squatting can put a lot of strain on your knees, but is it also a really good way to strengthen your muscles.
A half squat takes a lot of strain off your knees and focuses on the muscles. Stand in a neutral position, but make sure that your feet are about the same width apart as your hips.
You can perform the half squat standing without support.
You may choose to do the half squat with some support. In this case, stand behind a chair and hold on to it as you squat.
Side leg raises
For side leg raises, you will need to lie on your side on a bed, or on a mat on the floor.
When performing a side leg raise, make sure that you only extend your leg as far as is comfortable.
Do not let knee pain stop you from getting out and about. Manage the pain by using targeted exercises, as described, and you will find that life holds just what you want it to!
Supporting Scientific Studies
- 1Functional sit-to-stands evoke greater neuromuscular activation than orthopaedic bed exercises in healthy older adults
- 2Benefits of home-based rocking-chair exercise for physical performance in community-dwelling elderly women: a randomized controlled trial
- 3Exercises to Activate Seniors
- 4Comparison of the effects of two selected exercises of Theraband and Pilates on the balance and strength of lower limb in elderly women
- 5Physical-Performance Outcomes and Biomechanical Correlates from the 32-Week Yoga Empowers Seniors Study
- 6Effects of Yoga on Symptoms, Physical Function, and Psychosocial Outcomes in Adults with Osteoarthritis. A Focused Review
- 7Group and home-based tai chi in elderly subjects with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial
- 8Physical activity for osteoarthritis management: a randomized controlled clinical trial evaluating hydrotherapy or Tai Chi classes
- 9Long‐Term Exercise and its Effect on Balance in Older, Osteoarthritic Adults: Results from the Fitness, Arthritis, and Seniors Trial (FAST)
- 10Aerobic walking or strengthening exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee? A systematic review