How to Keep Your Knees Strong and Healthy

Despite being the largest joint in the human body, the knee can be underappreciated when it comes to daily exercise. After all, if you ask most folks what their workout routines consist of, they will probably tell you they do squats and lunges for glute and quad toning, planks and crunches for abdominal muscle strengthening and bicep and triceps curls for arm definition.

However, you won’t hear many people talk about what they do to keep their knees strong and working well throughout an entire lifetime. Yet focusing on knee health and strength is important for active, healthy living, especially as we age. Strong knees help us keep our balance and avoid falls that can result in disabling fractures. Healthy knees also keep us moving without pain and allow comfortable walking, another underrated activity especially in life’s later years.

To keep your knees strong and heathy, here are three critical keys for knee joint strength and active living protection.

[READ: Yoga After Knee Surgery: Does It Help?]

Weight-Bearing Exercises

Focusing on weight-bearing exercises is crucial for developing, maintaining and increasing knee strength. Interestingly, specific exercises can help strengthen the knees by focusing not on the knees themselves but on the muscles that surround and support them. For example, strong quadriceps muscles can help take pressure and shock off of the knee joints by bearing some of the load and force of your everyday activities.

Another tangible benefit of weight-bearing exercises is that they don’t require any gym equipment and can be done just about anywhere. Whether you’re using your body weight when just starting to perform these moves or adding dumbbell or ankle weights as your strength increases, it’s all good for your knees.

As with any new exercise routine, be sure to talk to your doctor about what’s safe and suitable for your specific health needs before you get started. Once you have the all-clear from your provider, here are some fantastic knee-strength exercises to add to your workout routine:

— Calf and heel raises.

— Hamstring curls.

— Leg lifts.

— Seated knee extension.

— Single-leg dips.

— Standing knee flexion.

— Step exercises.

— Wall squats.

[Read: Is Your Knee Pain Worse at Night?]

Aerobic Exercises

Your knees are designed with movement in mind. Maintaining an active lifestyle, in addition to incorporating weight-bearing activities, will round out a solid knee-strengthening regimen. Remember, to keep your knees strong and in proper working order, they need consistent daily movement, and that’s where aerobic exercise comes in.

Contrary to what some believe, the term “aerobic” doesn’t necessarily mean high impact or strenuous. There are a number of knee health benefits for people who engage in low-impact aerobic exercises. In some cases, lower-impact activities can also help stave off injury while exercising.

As with weight-bearing exercises, anyone can do aerobic exercises without an expensive gym membership or any equipment. If you can walk around the block a few times, most days a week, your knees will be better for it. Beyond walking, some additional aerobic exercises to consider incorporating into your routine include:

— Cycling.

Elliptical training.

— Hiking.

Swimming.

[Read: Tips to Restart Your Exercise Routine.]

Lifestyle Choices

Of course, no matter how many new or consistent exercises you incorporate into your everyday lifestyle, they won’t make you bionic, especially if you’re making other lifestyle choices that are canceling out that focus on fitness.

Your diet is the primary lifestyle factor that can set you up for knee health success — or failure — now and in the future. Biologically, your knees are specially designed to hold just the right amount of weight for your body. When they are required to bear a more significant load of force, the wear and tear on them accelerate, their function can be significantly reduced, and their structures can become irreparably damaged.

Maintaining an average body weight for your height isn’t equally dependent on diet and exercise . Though both are crucial for knee health, your diet plays a much more significant role than your activity level in helping to regulate your body weight.

If maintaining average body weight is a consistent struggle for you, be sure to have an honest conversation with your doctor about it. As with exercise, some consistent dietary changes over time can lead to lasting bodyweight management and a healthier lifestyle.

Knee problems don’t usually magically appear overnight. Frequently, they are the result of a gradual decline in health over time. So, the best way to slow or halt that decline is to focus on keeping the knees strong and in good shape, no matter how old you are.

Between regular, dedicated exercise and weight regulation by focusing on a more whole-food diet, you’ll be well on your way to significant knee-protective benefits that can last for the rest of your life.

More from U.S. News

Tips to Keep Your Bones Healthy and Strong

Foods That Fight — and Worsen — Inflammation

Best Exercises for Preventing Falls in Older Adults

How to Keep Your Knees Strong and Healthy originally appeared on usnews.com

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