Sore Knees? - Don't avoid stairs, learn to move better and get stronger instead

Welcome Back! I missed you but I didn't stop working on ways to help us move better and get stronger every single day.

This term let's commit to finding practical ways to fit more and better movement into our daily lives. No scheduling required! We'll multi-task to get started, taking care of your knees and getting stronger legs at the same time.

I had a volunteer test knee care for you over the holidays. He had a tweaky knee after a strenuous bush walk and we talked about whether it would be (a) better to avoid such rough and steep terrain in the future, or (b) train to make those ranges of motion accessible. Guess what he decided?

If you went with (b) you are correct! And it's not just so you can hike freely.  I've worked with people in their 20's who were already avoiding kneeling because it hurt. I'm not saying to do something even though it hurts, I'm saying lets investigate what you need to make that movement comfortable again. Not doing it limits you and may encourage other compensatory problems to develop too.

So you have your motivation and the solution is pretty simple. Release the tension that limits your joint function and strengthen the muscles that will power you up and down with ease. We'll continue to explore this in our classes but what about using stairs to train your knees every day?

 Notice that the front knee is collapsing out to the side and that the foot is turned out, creating lots of force into ligaments and not so much muscle engagement. Not a great way to utilise our moving parts.

Notice that the front knee is collapsing out to the side and that the foot is turned out, creating lots of force into ligaments and not so much muscle engagement. Not a great way to utilise our moving parts.

 Here he has so much more potential to take care of his knees and actually use the muscles in the back of his legs! Yay!

Here he has so much more potential to take care of his knees and actually use the muscles in the back of his legs! Yay!

STAIRS ARE GREAT KNEE TRAINERS!
Don't avoid them, do them differently. Master stairs and hills will become easy. Change what your body is doing as you step and you can remove painful friction and get stronger at the same time.

  • Don't Lean Forward
    We lean because it lets us use momentum instead of our leg muscles. Slow down your movements so you can use your legs more. They'll get stronger and the stairs will get easier.
     
  • Check What Your Knees Are Doing As You Step
    Is your stepping leg tracking straight ahead or is it collapsing in our out as you place your steeping foot down? Use your hip muscles to centre your knee. This keeps you out of those sensitive knee ligaments and uses muscles instead (a common theme for us and not just with the knees).
     
  • Are Your Calves Pulling Their Weight?
    Don't just use the front leg to pull you up, try and push off with the foot of the back leg as well. This takes pressure off your knee and strengthens your calves. One of our constant missions is waking up the muscles in the back of the legs.
If you practice these ideas as separate exercises you'll find that eventually they become the new habit and you'll willingly increase how many times you go up and down stairs - adding more and better movement to your day.

This and many more movement health gems are in Katy Bowman's latest book. I've got 3 library copies currently doing the rounds. If you'd rather buy your own Fishpond have Dynamic Aging on special with free postage here: Dynamic Aging: Simple Exercises for Better Whole-Body Mobility