5 Smart Exercises to Support Your Knees

By , Dr. Thomas J. Kleeman, MD
Perhaps the most common question I receive from patients is, ''I can’t exercise because of knee arthritis. What do I do?'' Over 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 suffer from knee arthritis. This can make exercising more challenging. As a result, many people with knee pain from arthritis just stop exercising. This can lead to obesity, loss of muscle tone, worsening of the arthritis and depression. You heard that right--exercise improves knee arthritis, and lack of exercise makes it worse!  If you have knee arthritis, there are some moves you may wish to avoid until your symptoms improve:

1. Bending  the knee while bearing weight
2. Flexing the knee past ninety degrees
3. Stressing the ligaments by leaping from side to side

If the above moves cause you discomfort, below are some alternative exercises that will move the knee joint safely while strengthening all the supporting muscles.
You will want to be on the floor for most of these exercises, so take your time getting down and back up again. Use a thick rug or exercise mat for comfort. If you have a firm mattress, you can even do some of these moves in bed. 

1. Warm up for two minutes by marching in place. This will get all the leg muscles warmed up and will begin to move the knee through a gentle range of motion.

2. Now, gently lay down on your back with your hips flexed and knees bent almost to ninety degrees. Straighten one leg at a time, making a straight line between the thigh and the lower leg. Set the foot back down and alternate with the other leg. Repeat this 30 times with each leg. This strengthens the quad muscles in the front of your thigh.

3. Now, lie on your side with your body straight. Support your head in your hand with a flexed elbow on the mat. Then, raise the upper leg out to the side as far as you feel comfortable. Lower the leg and repeat 10-20 times. Roll over and do the other side. This strengthens the outside muscles, or abductors.

4. Staying on your side, move your lower leg forward in front of the upper leg. Try raising the lower leg up in front of the upper leg using your inner thigh muscles, or 
adductors. Repeat 10-20 times, then roll over and do the other side.

5. Now, roll onto your front using a pillow or your arms to support your head and chest. Start with both legs out straight. Starting on one side, elevate the leg off the mat, keeping the knee straight. Lower the leg back to the mat and repeat 10-20 times. Then, do the other side. This is a great exercise for strengthening the 
hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh.

6. Now, finish off the workout with toe raises. Take your time to get back up to a standing position, and use a wall or bed post for balance. Stand on both feet, raise up your heels as far off the floor as you can and lower them back down. Repeat 30 times.

There you have it! In about 5 minutes, you have strengthened all the important muscles that support your knees. You can add some cardio by doing 20 minutes on a treadmill or exercise bike. Remember to use zero incline on the treadmill, and use the bike on low resistance.

About the Author
Dr. Thomas J. Kleeman, MD, is nationally-renowned orthopedic surgeon and founder of the New Hampshire Neurospine Institute. With the help of his wife Anne, he has become dedicated to the use of exercise and good nutrition as a means of maintaining quality of life during the aging process.  Now 66, he is a cancer survivor who found the benefits of exercise instrumental in his own recovery.  Along with his wife Anne, a registered nurse and certified fitness professional, he has launched MDfitness: The Doctor's Workout on DVD—an easy to follow exercise program designed for people over 40.

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


GGRSPARK 9/21/2020
Great information and happy to see photos. I would say , when you are doing side lying leg raises, it might be a good idea to not prop uup your head , but to extend it , and remember to stack your hips , to aboid tilting back. Report
ARTJAC 9/3/2020
KATHYJO56 8/26/2020
I have done these in PT and they are awesome Report
RHOOK20047 7/29/2020
Thanks for sharing these exercises Report
How do you target these muscles when you can't get down on the floor? Report
BONNIE1552 7/2/2020
Thanks Report
LIS193 5/11/2020
Great information Report
Grateful for the information. Report
WHITEANGEL4 4/4/2020
Thank you Report
Great info! Report
Knees are a real workhorse and the body is nearly totally dependent upon their working properly. Care for the and they will serve you well Report
BOB5148 2/9/2020
Thanks Report
PICKIE98 2/4/2020
Most of them are already in my P.T. workout! Report
How am I going to walk up and down stairs if I don't bend my knees while bearing weight, or does the author think my body doesn't weigh anything. Report
SHERYE 12/20/2019
I need to do this everyday Report
KHALIA2 12/19/2019
Thanks! Report
KHALIA2 11/19/2019
Great info! Thanks for sharing! Report
GRAMMY065 11/14/2019
Will try these on bed as I can’t on floor. Report
Thanks Report
thank you Report
i have done most of these stretches over the years Report
Could be good for knees but kind of hard on hips. Report
Thank You so much for this article. I have had a complete right-knee replacement and hope to NOT have a left-knee done. The above exercises should help. Report
Good exercises. Thank you. Report
I need to do these everyday. Report
My left knee is sore now so plan to start these once all is back to normal and maybe won't have this knee problem again. Report
good to know. Report
I wish I could print these exercises so I could remember them Report
I wish these articles had an easy way to add these to your fitness tracker. Report
great article Report
The care and feeding of the knees is always important Report
Thanks this is what I need Report
boy, great ideas for strengthening here. Report
Thanks for some great exercises! Report
Thanks for some great exercises! Report
Thanks Report
Thanks. Report
Excellent exercises! Report
good article Report
thank you Report
great ideas Report
did all these exercises in 2018 and recommended by my specialist. They do work if you do them. lol. I need to get back on board. Report
These are easy to incorporate in my plan and schedule...Thanks! Report
I don't have a knee problem, but I have a friend who does. I will be sure to share these tips with her. Report
Thanks for the info Report
I'm going to try these!!! Report
thanks Report