It could be that you have weak knees for a couple of reasons. Perhaps you had a previous injury like dislocating your knee cap, or you run often and the constant pressure on your knees is taking its toll, or weight changes have affected them, etc. I was a tom boy and forever banging my knees climbing trees or the jungle gym or falling, and I did athletics and played netball, soccer and hockey. Now whenever I let myself go and get a little heavier, or I do an exercise incorrectly (obviously), or go jogging on concrete, my knees hate me a little bit.
What can we do to help the situation? Let me just say that if you are experiencing a lot of pain, its definitely time to go to the doctor. But for the mild cases, strengthening the muscles in your legs and bum will help a lot. Maintaining a nice degree of flexibility also helps, having tight hamstrings are never nice even when the issue isn’t our knees. With all exercises, make sure that you are using proper form, so make sure your knees aren’t protruding over your feet, try keep as stable as possible, and keeping your core tight not only supports the exercises that you are doing, but does its bit in toning your tummy too.
Here are a few that you can do. Make sure that you aren’t feeling pain in the knees when doing this, or in your muscles. A nice fatigued burn means you are working your muscles, but sharp pains or dull aches mean that you are doing them incorrectly, or doing more harm than good.
Lie on your side, and bend your legs in a ninety degree angle, with your arm or hand supporting your head, depending which is most comfortable. Lift your top leg (knee) with your legs still bent so that your legs open like a clam, and then close them again. This exercise is good for when you really should be minimizing the pressure placed on your knees. Repeat 8-12 times on each side. Good for your lateral thigh (side thigh) muscles.
You can do this over a chair if you are starting out or need to be careful with your knees. Stand with your legs shoulder width apart, hold your arms out in front of you for balance, otherwise cross them across your chest, and lower your bum as if you are going to sit, if you are using the chair, you can perch your bum on the edge of the chair. Make sure that you don’t let your knees go over your toes (push your bum out a little) and keep your back straight. Then stand up again. You can also do this by keeping your back against the wall and squatting, this is known as a wall sit. In this case your body would form a 90 degree angle with your thighs. Only go as far as you can manage. As you get stronger, you can squat deeper, or hold dumbbells or a kettlebell as you squat. Do 8-12 reps. This works your thighs and glutes (bum). You can affect which muscles are worked, e.g, widening your stance and turning your feet outward works your inner thighs in addition to your bum, quads (front thigh muscles), and hamstrings (back thigh muscles).
Stand holding the back of a chair or the counter. Legs together and straight but not locked. Lift one foot towards your bum, 90 degrees is fine. Lower it back down. Repeat. You can do 8-12 reps for each leg. As you get stronger you can use ankle weights. This is also a nice gentle exercise for when you really need to be careful with your knees. It works your hamstrings as the name suggests.
This exercise is also nice and gentle. You can do them standing (but remember, balance/ stability is key, so hold onto something if you need to), or sitting down (this will be the better option if you are just starting out). If you are sitting, sit with your back straight, and your legs at a 90 degree angle with your fleet flat on the floor. Straighten one leg, keeping the other leg in the starting position, hold a few seconds, and lower it again to the starting position. Repeat. If you are standing, lift your knee so that its bent at a 90 degree angle, and then straighten your leg while it is still lifted, then bend your leg back to the starting position, do not lock your knees at any time. Repeat. You can do 8-12 reps of these per leg. Good for the quads.
More chair exercises:
Holding the back of a chair or holding onto the counter stand with your legs together, straight but not locked. Keeping your legs straight, move one leg out behind you, it helps to point your feet so that the floor doesn’t interfere, and then move it back into position. Repeat 8-12 times per leg. Good for the glutes.
Once again, holding onto the back of a chair or a counter, stand with your legs straight, move one leg out to the side, 30-45 degrees, and then back again. Repeat 8-12 times per leg, good for the lateral thigh muscles.
Stand with your legs together or shoulder width apart, raise up on your tippy toes and lower back down. Repear 10-15 times.
Stand with your legs shoulder width apart, and bend down, trying to touch the floor with your legs straight but not locked. This should stretch your hamstrings, and if your calves are stiff, you should feel a slight stretch there too.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight but not locked and try to touch your toes. This will stretch your hamstrings and your calves if your toes are facing the ceiling.
Stand with one leg forward and bent, and your hands braced against a wall, straightening your other leg behind you with your foot flat on the ground, the further you lean forward, the deeper the stretch. This will stretch your calves.
Sit with your feet together and your heels pulled towards you, with your knees out like wings. Try to make your knees touch the ground. This will stretch your inner thighs.
Stand with your legs straight, feet together. Bend your one foot up behind you and grab your foot, pull your leg back further if you need to. This will stretch your quads.
NB! With stretches, only go as far as you can to feel a nice stretch, you should not be in pain. Never force a stretch. Hold each stretch 20-30 seconds.
These are of course not the only exercises that you can do, you can find a lot of other exercises in books and on the internet. But as mentioned before, always make sure your form is correct, and that you listen to your body. You should notice as your get stronger that you have less pain if any when going up the stairs or running, kneeling, etc. If in doubt, always go see a doctor. But in a lot of cases, its just a case of strengthening the muscles around your knees 🙂