Of all the joints in your body, your knees take the most abuse. If you’re overweight, they take even more abuse. For every 10 pounds of excess weight, you put an extra 4 pounds of pressure on your knees.
Even if you maintain a healthy weight your entire life, your knees will start to ache as you get older. However, the right exercises can help you strengthen your knees and legs. This will keep them limber and strong for as long as possible.
If you have suffered a knee injury or have had surgery you need to be careful when rehabbing your knee. Consult your doctor or physio therapist for exercises that are safe for your knee.
Here are six effective knee exercises that are senior-friendly.
1. Knee Curls
Knee curls help strengthen your hamstrings, and they can be performed while standing or laying down.
We’ll explain how to perform this exercise both ways.
To do this exercise while standing, you’ll need a sturdy chair.
- Stand behind the chair with your feet facing forward.
- Hold on to the top of the chair to maintain balance, and keep your feet hip-distance apart.
- Shift your weight to your right leg, and bend your knee slightly.
- Bend your left knee, and lift your right foot up toward your buttocks. Hold for a few seconds.
- Lower your left leg down to the starting position.
- Perform 10-15 curls on your left leg.
- Repeat on the right leg.
You may want to use a yoga mat for this exercise, or perform this movement on a carpeted surface.
- Begin by laying down on your stomach with both your legs out straight.
- Bend your right knee toward your buttocks.
- Hold for two seconds, and lower back down.
- Repeat 10-15 times on the right leg.
- Repeat the exercise on the left leg.
To make this exercise more challenging – whether you’re standing or laying – use ankle weights. Start off with light weight and work your way up to heavier weight as you gain strength.
Clams are an excellent exercise for strengthening the knees, and they don’t require a whole lot of strength to get started. Along with your knees, this exercise will also work your hip muscles for better balance and mobility.
To do this exercise, you’ll need to get down on the floor. You may want to use a yoga mat or perform this movement on a carpeted surface.
- Start by laying down on your back.
- Bend your knees and roll over onto left your side, keeping your knees bent. Your knees should be stacked on top of each other, just as if you were sleeping on your side.
- Use your left arm to prop yourself up and stay balanced.
- With your knees bent, spread your knees apart, lifting your right knee up towards the ceiling.
- Raise your right knee as high as you comfortably can.
- Lower your knee back down.
- Repeat 10-15 times.
- Roll over onto the opposite side and repeat on the left leg.
If you want to make this exercise more challenging, try placing a resistance band around your knees.
3. Wall Slides
Wall slides are a great way to work the knees, quadriceps, hips and glutes. And if you can’t perform a traditional air squat, wall squats are a safe alternative.
You can perform this exercise with or without a stability ball, but the ball helps you maintain proper form and adds cushioning to your lower back.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with your back against a stability ball that’s against the wall.
- The ball should be low enough that it’s reaching your lower back.
- Lean your back against the ball, and take a small step away from the wall. Make sure that your weight is evenly distributed between both feet.
- Engage the core and keep your shoulders relaxed. This will be your starting position.
- On an inhale, lower down into a squat while keeping pressure on the ball. Stop when your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Keep your core engaged the entire time, and use the ball to support your lower back.
- Hold the squatting position for two seconds.
- On an exhale, raise yourself back up to the starting position, pushing up through your heels.
- Repeat 10-15 times. Perform two sets.
To make this exercise more challenging, try using wrist weights to add more resistance.
4. Straight Leg Raises
Straight leg raises work your knees, thighs and hips, which are all needed to maintain balance and mobility.
This exercise is performed on the floor, and doesn’t require any additional equipment. You may want to lay on a yoga mat and support your neck with a towel.
- Begin by laying down on your back with both of your legs straight out in front of you.
- Keeping your legs straight, lift your left leg up towards the ceiling. Lift as high as you can. It’s okay if you can only lift a few inches off of the ground.
- Hold the leg up in the air for 2-5 seconds and slowly lower down.
- Repeat on 10-15 times.
- Repeat on the opposite leg.
If you want to make this exercise more challenging, try wearing ankle weights. Start off with low weight and work yourself up to heavier weight for an even bigger challenge.
5. Stationary Bike
The stationary bike is a great way to get the cardiovascular exercise you need – and help improve your knee strength – without putting too much strain on your joints.
This exercise is often used in knee rehabilitation.
To use a stationary bike:
- Adjust the seat and handlebars to match your height.
- Strap your feet into the pedal straps if you’re using them.
- Start pedaling.
Remember not to pedal with just your toes and to avoid hunching over. Move at your own pace and only increase the resistance level if you feel you’re up to the challenge.
6. Chair Stands
This exercise will not only help strengthen your knees, but also make it easier to get in and out of chairs.
For this exercise, you’ll need a chair.
- Sit down on the chair and move close to the edge of the seat.
- Place both of your feet on the floor, keeping them shoulder-width apart.
- Lean backward slightly, and cross your arms over your chest.
- On an exhale, sit upright, extend your arms, shift your weight to your heels and stand up slowly.
- On an inhale, bend your knees and slowly sit back down.
- Repeat this movement 10-15 times.
Exercises are great, but it is also important to stay flexible and limber. Click here to see some fun and effective stretches that will keep you feeling lose and young.
Allie has worked in care facilities for the last 15 years providing mobility and health care to seniors of all skill levels. She is passionate about senior advocacy and is and loves to spend her free time in the outdoors.