Maintaining Healthy Knees

Martha Stewart Living Television

As many of us have experienced, the knee is one of the most frequently injured body parts. Today, Lisa Lynn talks to Martha about how to avoid knee injuries, then demonstrates a few exercises designed to strengthen those that have already been injured.

Lisa says that the most common injuries are brought on by overuse, muscle imbalances, inadequate shoes, carrying around too much weight, or too many impact sports -- those that put a high-impact force on your knee, such as running, tennis, or biking. Such activities will eventually wear out the knee joints unless you do a few exercises to keep them strong and stretched. Strong and stretched muscles prevent injuries from happening. Stretching is also key, because a tight, strong muscle that is inflexible will snap very easily.

Following are three preliminary stretches and four exercises that Lisa recommends to keep your knees healthy or to improve weak knees. (She notes that before beginning any new exercise program, you should always consult your doctor.)

Stretches
Front Thigh Stretch (Standing)
Stand facing a wall or countertop; with your left hand, grasp your right leg behind you, pulling your heel toward your buttocks until you feel the stretch. Repeat with your other leg.

Hamstring Stretch (Floor)
Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you; use your hands to pull your torso forward and your head toward your knees until you feel the stretch. Keep your legs as straight as possible.

Inner Thigh Stretch (Floor)
Sit on the floor with your legs spread open in as much of a straddle position as you can. Lean forward as much as is comfortable.

Exercises
Squats (Standing)
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Keeping your head and back straight, slowly squat 4 to 5 inches down; count 1 second going down, 1 second coming up. Do 3 sets of 30 to 50 repetitions. Repeat 3 to 5 days per week. As you progress, you can add weights using dumbbells or a cord.

Seated Modified Leg Extensions (Chair)
Strap a 3- to 5-pound ankle weight to each ankle, and sit in a chair. Extend one leg straight out in front of you. If you are nursing a knee injury, use a smaller range of motion. Do 3 sets of 30 to 50 repetitions on each leg. Repeat 3 to 5 days per week.

Side Leg Raises (Floor)
Lie down on your side (keep your body straight -- no slouching). Lift your top leg upward as far as possible, keeping your hips tilted forward and your leg straight. Do 3 sets of 30 to 50 repetitions on each side. Repeat 3 to 5 days per week. When you feel more advanced, use 3- to 5-pound ankle weights.

Inner Thigh Raise (Floor)
Lying on your side with your top leg behind or in front of your bottom leg, lift your bottom leg upward as far as possible. Keep your foot flexed and your leg muscles tight. Do 3 sets of 30 to 50 repetitions on each side. Repeat 3 to 5 days per week. When you feel more advanced, use 3- to 5-pound ankle weights.

Leg Curls (Floor)
Lie down on your stomach. Using your non-working leg for resistance, slowly curl one leg back toward your buttocks, squeeze the muscles, and return to the starting position. Do 3 sets of 30 to 50 repetitions on each side. Repeat 3 to 5 days a week. When you feel more advanced, use 3- to 5-pound ankle weights.

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