If you regularly work out with intensity (or even at a moderate level), you may be concerned — as many people are — that exercise could cause “wear and tear” on your knees.
You can relax! There has been a good amount of research published in the scientific journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world, showing that physical activity is actually beneficial to knee health.
The main concern has always been that vigorous exercise could cause bony spurs called osteophytes, an overgrowth of bone tissue which develops in deteriorating joints and tendons. But these studies clearly show that physical activity, if done correctly, is not harmful to the knees.
According to the research, spurs may be the body's healthy response to ongoing stimulation from physical activity. As a matter of fact, rather than hurting the knees, exercise has been shown to cause fewer injuries to the knee’s cartilage (the flexible connective tissue found in joints between bones).
These studies should reassure all those who forego exercise for the fear of injuring their knees. It is understandable that people want to protect their knee joints as well as related muscles and tendons because they play such an important role in how we move and carry the body weight.
However, giving up physical activity altogether is not the answer. What you need is a safe way to exercise.
Everyone, and especially those who are susceptible to twisting and stretching injuries of the knee, would benefit from exercises and stretches that focus on the glutes, hips, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.
If you are new to exercise or unsure of how to approach it, a fitness professional can show you a whole range of exercises that are terrific for your knees’ strength and flexibility. What is also important is maintaining a healthy body weight so your knees don’t buckle under the extra pressure, and also wearing appropriate footwear.
This last point is very important. I have seen many obese/overweight people give up (or not even try) exercising because they feel it is too stressful on their knees. The problem isn't necessarily the exercising. It is more likely the amount of weight they are carrying (in the form of body weight) during activities of daily living that is the true stressor.
Giving up on exercise is the LAST thing they should want to do. The answer to the problem is learning the CORRECT way to exercise as well as getting on a controlled calorie nutrition plan so they can lose that weight. The cure ends up being a two-step process: 1) strengthening them through exercise AND 2) losing weight (so there ends up being less joint stress in every day life).
And we aren't just talking about the one joint here, people. While exercise is good for the knees, it is beneficial for all the other joints and bones as well.
Lack of exercise can make your joints more painful by weakening the supporting muscles. Just like for the knees, strength, flexibility and endurance training can make a world of difference in making all your joints less stiff and sore. Here too, a fitness instructor can guide you toward the most effective and safest exercises.