Better knees for the new year

A new year is a good time to hit the “reset” button and start doing things differently.

Some want to save more and spend less.

Others might be interested in learning a new hobby.

But, without a doubt, the top trending resolution is to drop a few pounds and get healthier.

I’m all for living a healthier life, as long as it’s done in a responsible way.

Drastically cutting calories and hitting the gym hard in January is a surefire way to burn yourself out quickly.

It also sets you up for injury, particularly in your knees.

If you’ve been on the sidelines for a while, you need to get your body ready for increased activity.

Exercises that help to strengthen your knees can help keep you moving and reduce risk of injury.

It’s important to note that knee strengthening exercises don’t actually affect the knee joint directly.

Instead, they work to strengthen the muscles around it.

When your leg muscles are strong, they can provide support for the knees, helping to relieve strain on the joints, and keep you active.

Here’s how to get started…

First thing you want to do is warm up for 10-15 minutes with a gentle aerobic workout like walking, using an elliptical machine, or riding on a stationary bike.

You never want to do knee strengthening exercises without a warm up.

Working cold, stiff muscles without one just puts you at greater risk of injury.

But a light warm up will increase blood flow to your muscles and allow them to be more flexible.

After your warmup, grab a mat and lay on the floor with your back flat for leg lifts.

Be sure your back isn’t arched.

Bend one leg at the knee while keeping the other leg straight on the floor.

With your toes pointed towards the ceiling, slowly lift the leg, without bending the knee, until your leg is about 12 inches off the floor.

(Note, it should not be higher than your bent leg.)

Hold the leg up for 5 seconds, then slowly lower it to the ground.

Repeat this movement two more times, then switch legs.

These leg lifts work your quadriceps and abdominal muscles.

Next, you want to stand up for hamstring curls.

Place your feet a couple of inches apart.

Slowly bend one knee behind your body until the knee bend reaches a 90-degree angle.

If you find it hard to balance, grab a chair to help keep you more stable.

(Note, keep your straight leg slightly bent to avoid locking the knee.)

Hold the bent leg up for 5 seconds, then slowly lower it to the floor.

Repeat this movement two more times, then switch legs.

These leg curls work your hamstrings and glutes.

For the next exercise, you’ll need two high backed, stable chairs, placed on either side of your body, with the backs of the chairs next to your arms.

Hold on to the back of each chair for balance while bending both legs at the knee.

Don’t let your knees extend past your toes.

Straighten one leg out in front of your body, keeping your weight balanced on the other foot.

Bring the straightened leg down, holding it a few inches off the floor for 5 seconds.

Lower the leg completely to the floor and stand straight.

Switch sides and repeat on the other leg.

These chair dips work your quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes.

You might remember the final exercise from elementary school gym class.

My P.E. teacher used to torture us with them… wall squats.

Thankfully, with this version, you don’t have to hold the position until your legs start to shake.

Stand with your body against a wall.

Step both feet out away from the wall, about 2 feet, while keeping your back and shoulders still against it.

Your feet should be hip width apart.

Slide your back down the wall slowly, until your body is just above a normal sitting position.

Don’t slide down too low… your knees should not go over your toes.

Hold for 5 seconds and then slide back up.

Repeat two more times.

Wall squats work your quadriceps and glutes.

After a workout, it’s important that you stretch each of the muscles you just worked.

Stretching helps improve flexibility and reduces post-workout pain.

Getting healthier isn’t a race.

Slow and steady is a much more practical way to achieve success.

Taking care of your body, particularly your knees, can help ensure you continue your new fitness routine not just in January, but throughout the new year, and if you’re thinking, “These exercises sound great, but what if you’re in so much pain you can’t even get started?” Well, then you should take a look at this.

About Jeff Reagan, Editor, Jeff Reagan's Daily Health Newsletter for Conservatives

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