Your knees are only one of the amazingly capable and powerful joints in your body, but they’re particularly crucial for getting around through your average day. When you’re working out to keep yourself healthy, it’s vital to keep your knees from paying a price for these efforts. If nothing else, you need them to get yourself home from the gym.

Exercise itself isn’t a risk to your knee joints. You won’t wear them out faster through the act of using them. In fact, it’s the opposite. Even people with osteoarthritis of the knees often see improvement in their condition when they use their knees more often.

However, exercise might increase your risk of injury, and it’s this sort of damage that can contribute to mobility issues. Protecting your knees from injury is key to a successful exercise plan. Listen to what your body tells you. With this in mind, let’s look at five ways you can help protect your knees through your workouts.

Listen to your body

Working out through aches and pains is somewhat glorified through phrases such as “no pain, no gain.” However, when it comes to your knees, this isn’t the time to ignore these signals. There’s a complex network of muscles, ligaments, and cartilage at play, and knee pain is an early warning sign for impending damage. When your knee is injured, healing is often equally complex.

Pay attention to footwear

Matching footwear to your activity can help provide a stable base with the right arch support to keep your knees neutral. That’s going to mean different things to different people, depending on their natural physiology.

High arches, low arches, knock knees; each of these can impact what you need from your shoe. If you’re a runner, you need less lateral support than a tennis or basketball player, who contends with fast side-to-side motion. Also, replace your shoes regularly, after about 500 miles of activity. As the shoe wears down, the risk to your knees and ankles increases.

Consider your exercise

Match your exercise to your fitness level and physical condition. If you’re breaking free from a sedentary lifestyle, consider the intensity and endurance necessary to participate and build toward it.

Even your choice of surface can impact your efforts. Knee-friendly activities include cycling and swimming. If you choose jogging or running, avoid excessive downhill slopes until your knees are ready. Don’t forget warm-ups and stretches as injury preventers.

Factor in extra weight

Combining exercise with diet to reach a healthy weight is an excellent basis for an active life. As you progress toward your target, remember that each extra pound contributes to increased strain on your knees. Particularly in the early days of your new regimen, you need to consider the extra force your knees will absorb. It’s easier to overdo it when you’re impatient for results.

Support your efforts with strength training

Choosing an activity you enjoy makes exercise fun. Don’t forget, though, that the skills you need to perform at your desired level likely need some support through less exciting exercise. Core training benefits virtually every motion your legs make. Working the muscle groups around your knees and in your hips, thighs, and pelvis all help distribute the load your knees endure, protecting them from injury.

For a personal exercise plan including gait assessment and more, contact Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates. You can schedule a one-on-one consultation by calling the office. It’s never too soon to get started.

 Dr. Keppler is a practicing surgeon and member of the following organizations:

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