How To Prevent Knee Pain... And Lose Weight Too

How To Prevent Knee Pain... And Lose Weight Too

Being overweight isn’t something to be embarrassed about. Whether due to body chemistry, lifestyle considerations, or even gaining weight while recovering from an injury, we all fall out of optimum shape at times.
— Dr. Sterett

As more and more people realize the unique benefits of exercising on a regular basis, we are seeing an overall increase in the occurrence of knee pain in the general population.  We all want to get out there and live a healthy lifestyle-- whether that means hiking, biking, skiing, pounding the pavement, or just shooting some hoops once in a while. 

The pressure to exercise can be even greater if we are dealing with being overweight. What happens when we put our body through the rigors of consistent activity with the additional stress of carrying extra pounds?

Well, sometimes nothing! Some people can get out there and engage in exercise with no repercussions.

BUT for many of us, the knees will show the effects of constant usage, coupled with the physiological stress of being overweight. And that means knee pain.

Recently we talked about how to identify the cause of your knee pain, and when you should see a doctor for knee pain. 

Now I want to identify some steps you can take to mitigate the chance of knee pain if you are overweight. It's time to get preventative! Let's talk about protecting those knees while still taking steps to lose weight in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.

1. Don't Overdo It.

 Running is a great way to lose weight, but it can be tough on the knees....

Running is a great way to lose weight, but it can be tough on the knees....

Being overweight isn't something to be embarrassed about. Whether due to body chemistry, lifestyle considerations, or even gaining weight while recovering from an injury, we all fall out of optimum shape at times.

Even the world's best athletes have to deal with the problem sometimes. Remember Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley? These two super-athletes-turned pundits were known to be in a class by themselves athletically, but they struggled to maintain a healthy playing weight during their entire careers. It's something they joke about on TV all the time because it's something they had to face on an almost yearly basis.  So hey, don't stress-- being overweight can happen to anybody.

Here's where it can become a problem in relation to the knees: going too hard, too fast. One thing I see when overweight people attempt to shed pounds quickly is a tendency to overdo it out of the gate. Pushing the body extra-hard can certainly result in weight loss. However, if it involves running, we need to be careful that we don't get overzealous with our workout. When you are overweight, you are definitely putting more stress on the knees with the extra pounds, no matter what the activity.

There's another thing to consider: just carrying an unhealthy amount of extra weight (in general) can be a constant strain on your knees.

So I do want to encourage you to lose that weight if you feel like it's not healthy-- just do it gradually and in a moderate, low-impact way!

    2. Make Sure To Warm Up

     We recommend stretching before working out to increase blood flow and protect the joints

    We recommend stretching before working out to increase blood flow and protect the joints

    I recommend some light stretching before you dive into your workout. I know, I know, you are jonesing to get after it and start burning off the pounds. But despite some recent advice to the contrary coming out of some circles, moderate stretching is still recommended to ease into a workout.

    Before you run, do some light cardio such as jumping jacks, squats, or lunges. This boosts your oxygen flow and circulates synovial fluid into the knee, which will mitigate your chance of injury.

    So remember, don't skip the warm up! Making sure to stretch will pay off in the long run!

    3. Increase Intensity Safely

     Start lightly and build your way up to lose weight while still protecting your knees from pain

    Start lightly and build your way up to lose weight while still protecting your knees from pain

    Again, the best way to burn out and/or cause injuries to the knees if you are overweight is to go too hard, too fast. The last thing I want to see is for somebody to start overdoing it out of the gate, then doing serious damage to their knees that will result in even more problems down the line. 

    So ease into your individual workouts, and ease into your overall fitness plan. Create an overall goal of where you want to be in regards to your weight, then take it step by step.

    So how should you start? Here Are 4 Exercises

    Here are 4 healthy exercises you can start with to lose weight. Once you start shedding the pounds, you can amp up the workout.

    1. Light to moderate cardio 

    Many of the cardio fitness machines we find in the gym excel at letting you control the pace and intensity of your workout, and these can be good ways to introduce light to moderate cardio into your routine. Stationary bikes can be especially helpful when it comes to employing the interval workouts that can help you lose weight with the least strain on your knees.

    2. Crunches.

    These are like "half-situps", but they don't put undue strain on the back. A crunch is executed exactly like a sit-up, except you just go halfway up, and you actually bring your legs towards your elbows instead of keeping your feet on the floor.

    3. Squats.

    Squats are a good exercise to help you ease into a workout because you can control how far you bend. the deeper you go, the more strain on the knees, so start by bending slightly, then adjust depending upon your comfort level. I recommend starting without weights. Adjust to your comfort level and try to keep your back straight as you do the exercise.

    3. Light jogging.

    Remember, start slowly and build up as you begin to shed the pounds. Running can really be a great exercise to lose weight, but you really need to start slow and then ramp it up as you go.

    4. Biking.

    Biking can be significantly more low-impact than running when it comes to the knees. And if you are used to keeping the pounds off by running but are experiencing knee pain, I highly recommend switching to cycling or light trail biking to keep your body in optimum shape. Biking is also a great way to build your endurance and ease back into running if that's your preferred method of exercise.

    Lifestyle is the Key

     A healthy, balanced lifestyle including diet and exercise are key to staying at an optimum weight.

    A healthy, balanced lifestyle including diet and exercise are key to staying at an optimum weight.

    Losing weight is not something that happens overnight. And with the added pressure of keeping your knees pain-free, the prospect can be daunting. But if you remember that a moderate lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle, you'll be able to position yourself to be healthy for the long run.

    And if you need help designing a program for your own individual needs, don't be afraid to reach out to a professional to help you to achieve your goals. There are nutritionists, personal trainers, and life coaches who specialize in helping people design sustainable, healthy lifestyles.

    And if you find yourself experiencing knee pain, don't be afraid to reach out to your local Sports Medicine specialist, or to contact me at: teamsterett@vsortho.com.

    Good luck!

    Dr. Sterett


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