How To Strengthen The Knee Area

Sharon Jane Akinyemi

Sharon Jane Akinyemi

By Sharon Jane Akinyemi

“At 21, I have problems getting up from my bed each morning. So much pain all over my body especially my knees. Aunty Sharon what should I do? I surely need help at this point”. This was coming from a young client. As a matter of fact I saw someone with serious problem at hand. At twenty one ? It’s so disturbing because you see, if she does nothing about her present predicament, I bet you by the time she is forty years old, she is likely to end up on a wheel chair. But there is hope for her as long as she takes it up as a challenge and work hard to stop this destiny limiting situation.

Sharon Jane Akinyemi
Sharon Jane Akinyemi

Did I hear you say Hmmmmmm ! Yes I did likewise.
If your knees are giving you problems, when getting out of bed and you feel like you are beaten all through the night while asleep, it could be arthritis, you’re not alone. Nearly 10 million Nigerians feel the same way.

Knees are the most commonly injured joints in the body. Considering that when you simply walk up stairs, the pressure across your knee joints is four times your body weight, it isn’t surprising. Simple, everyday wear and tear can end up hurting your mobility. But it’s not too late. Like a rusty door hinge, with care and maintenance, your knees can be trouble free. Even if you already experience problems, exercising the muscles surrounding the knee joints— Quadriceps (front of thigh), Hamstrings (back of thigh), Abductor (outside thigh), and Adductor (inside thigh)—will help make your knees stronger and less susceptible to injury. Exercise keeps your joints from stiffening and provides needed support, making movement easier and reducing pain.

Here are some exercises you can do to both stretch and strengthen the knee area:

STRETCHES
Chair knee extension: Sitting in a chair, rest your foot on another chair so the knee is slightly raised. Gently push the raised knee toward the floor using only leg muscles. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds and release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.

Heel slide knee extension: Lie on your back, with left knee bent and left foot flat on floor. Slowly slide the left heel away from your body so both legs are parallel. Hold for 5-10 seconds, return to starting position. Repeat 5 times on each leg.

Knee flexion: Sitting in a chair, loop a long towel under your foot (resting on the floor). Gently pull on the towel with both hands to bend the knee, raising your foot 4 – 5 inches off the floor. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.

Hamstring stretch: Standing, put one foot in front of you, toes up. With hands on the small of your back (or one hand holding a chair for balance), bend the opposite knee and hip (not your lower back), until you feel the hamstrings stretch. The upper body comes forward at the hip. Hold for 5 -10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.

STRENGTH TRAINING
Wall slide: Leaning with your back against a wall, bend your knees 30°, sliding down the wall, then straighten up again. Move slowly and smoothly, using your hands on the wall for balance. Keep feet and legs parallel, and do not allow knees to go out over the toes. Repeat 5 -10 times.

Bent-Leg Raises: Sitting in a chair, straighten one leg in the air (without locking the knee). Hold for about one minute. Bend your knee to lower the leg about halfway to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. Return to starting position. Work up to 4 reps on each leg.

Straight-Leg Raises: Sitting in a chair, rest your foot on another chair. Lift the foot a few inches off the chair while keeping your leg straight. Hold for 5 -10 seconds. Return to resting position. Repeat 5 -10 times. (Also work on increasing the time, up to 2-3 minutes if possible.) A great alternatives to squats, leg raises on the machine work the major muscles of the leg in a very controlled manner. Make sure you start with your knees at a 90 degree angle, or greater, and only use a high resistance if your knees are injury-free.

Abductor Raise: Lie on your side, propped on one elbow. The leg on the floor bent, the other straight. Slowly lift the top leg, hold for 5 -10 seconds, then lower. (Ankle weights will increase the intensity). Do 1-3 sets with 12-15 repetitions each. Remember to rest in between sets.

Hamstring Curl: Stand with the front of your thighs against a surface (a table or wall). Flex one knee up as far as is comfortable. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds, then lower slowly. If possible, do not touch the floor between repetitions. (Ankle weights will increase the intensity.) Do 1-3 sets with 12-15 repetitions each. Remember to rest in between sets.Using an exercise ball is a great way to switch up your routine while protecting your knees. With lying hamstring curls, you target the butt and hamstrings without putting significant pressure on the knees. This is also a great move for core stability and balance.

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Step-Ups: Stand in front of a step, like a sturdy bench or stairs, about two feet high (or less if necessary). Step up onto the support, straighten your knees fully (without locking them) and step down. Maintain a steady pace. If you are comfortable with your balance, pump your arms while doing this exercise. Start with 1 minute, slowly building your time. Gets your heart pumping too! Step-ups work a lot of the same muscles as lunges but because you are stepping up onto a box or platform, you can control how deeply you bend your knee, based on the height of the platform, to better protect the joint. Plus, since your foot is stationary at the start of the exercise, the knee joint is more stable as you put weight on your leg. Not only do they effectively work your legs and glutes, step-ups offer a cardio component, too!

Reverse lunges: Reverse lunges are safer on the knees because the front leg is planted, allowing you to monitor your alignment as you step back. They are also a good way to complement all the forward movements of everyday life.

Deadlifts: If at first you think bodybuilder at hearing this exercise, think again. Similar to squats and lunges, deadlifts are an effective move for your lower body, especially your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Since your feet are fully planted on the ground, your knees remain stable as you bend your torso forward, and engaging the core will also take pressure off the joints in your legs. Keep this guide to deadlifts in mind before your next workout

Stationary Bike: Biking is a good way to increase strength and range of motion. Make sure you have the right positioning of the legs. At the bottom of the pedal stroke, the bend in the knee should be 15 degrees. Start with 10 minutes and slowly increase your time.

Depending on your current level of activity and mobility, a good start is 3 stretching and 3 strengthening exercises, 3-4 times a week. Stretching can be (and should be) done everyday if possible to prevent stiffness and achy joints. These stretches can be done a few times a day if needed.

Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise programme. These exercises are designed to help, not hurt. If you experience pain at any time during the exercise, stop. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong.

WHAT TO EAT?

Omega-3s
While other foods increase levels of inflammation in the body, omega-3s actually work to decrease inflammation by suppressing the production of enzymes that erode cartilage. A host of studies have demonstrated that omega-3 fish oils can reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Study participants reported greater strength, less fatigue, reduced joint swelling and tenderness, less joint stiffness, and less overall pain. The best foods for omega-3 fatty acids are fresh croaker herring, mackerel (not king), sardines, and walnuts.

Olive Oil
In addition to healthy monounsaturated fats, olive oil contains a natural compound called oleocanthal which may help prevent arthritis-related inflammation. This compound blocks the same inflammatory pathways as ibuprofen and aspirin, medications commonly used to fight arthritis pain. I recommend using olive oil when cooking instead of vegetable oil or butter (substitute in equal or lesser amounts). If you’re also trying to lose weight to manage your arthritis, incorporate olive oil but be stingy with the amounts since all fat (including healthy fat like olive oil) is high in calories. For the highest antioxidant content, choose “extra virgin” olive oil; and note that the stronger the taste, the higher the amounts of oleocanthal the oil is likely to have.

Green Tea
Green tea has been the subject of much health buzz in recent years, and with good reason. Compared with regular black tea, green tea looks weak and insubstantial. But this mild-mannered drink contains a natural antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) not found in black tea. Studies suggest that EGCG works to stop the production of certain inflammatory chemicals in the body, including those involved in arthritis. Preliminary research suggests that EGCG and other catechins in tea may prevent cartilage from breaking down, possibly helping to preserve joints longer.

Carotenoids
The carotenoids are a group of powerful antioxidant nutrients found in many fruits and vegetables. The best known is beta carotene (found in foods like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, butternut and spinach), but its sister carotenoid, beta-cryptoxanthin, may also reduce the risk of developing inflammation-related disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers have found that people who ate diets high in beta-cryptoxanthin were half as likely to develop a form of inflammatory arthritis as those who ate very few; in fact, adding just one additional serving each day of a food high in beta-cryptoxanthin helped reduce the risk. Some of the best foods for beta cryptoxanthin include pumpkin, water melon papaya, tangerines, red peppers, corn, and oranges.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the nutrients most responsible for the health of collagen, a major component of cartilage. In addition, research suggests that people who eat a diet low in vitamin C may have a greater risk of developing some kinds of arthritis. For those reasons, it is important to make vitamin C-rich foods — such as guava, bell peppers (yellow, red, orange, and green), oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, pineapple, cabbage, kidney beans, and lemon — a part of your daily diet. (High-dose vitamin C supplements can actually be harmful for osteoarthritis sufferers, so talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.)

CONFIDENCE TIP: If you have increased soreness after doing the exercises mentioned earlier, it may help to ice your knee or knees for 10 – 20 minutes. Place a bag of ice over the joint, with a towel between to protect the skin. Elevate your leg on a chair if ice alone is inadequate.

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