The knee is a complex and resilient joint that can absorb loads more than four times your body weight. Knees are used in almost every activity, which leaves them vulnerable to injury. This doesn't mean that avoiding activity is the best way to protect knees. Research shows that exercise helps prevent knee osteoarthritis by maintaining cartilage for healthy joints. The key is to keep knees safe during exercise to stay pain and injury-free.
Set things up.
Weight machines have adjustments so you can set the seat and levers according to your your height and the weight load according to your strength. Machines like the leg press, leg extension, and leg curl can stress the knee joint if not adjusted for your individual needs. Ask for an orientation on all gym equipment before getting started, and make a note of the settings so that you can adjust the equipment correctly yourself during each workout.
Use correct form.
Squats and lunges are notorious for causing knee pain when performed incorrectly. The general rule has always been to keep the knee from moving forward beyond the toes when squatting or lunging. According to the American Council on Exercise, new recommendations state that it’s more important to hinge the hips by pushing them backward before lowering into the exercise position. The knees should align over the second toe so that the knee moves in the same direction as your ankle joint. Depending on height and limb length, for some people this may cause the knee to appear to move forward beyond the toes. For these individuals, this is considered a safe movement because keeping the knee further in can increase stress on the lower back.
Be selective about surfaces.
Hard surfaces like concrete can add stress to the knee joint during running, walking, and jumping. Move your workouts to softer surfaces to protect the knees. Tracks, dirt trails, grass, asphalt, and the treadmill all provide better shock absorption.
Know what you can handle.
Experienced athletes can perform exercises, such as deep knee bends or squats, without adding unnecessary stress to the knee joints. Problems arise when you attempt these exercises before you understand correct form and before you have built the necessary strength to handle the movement. If your goal is to perform more advanced exercises, seek the advice of a trainer to guide you through a program that will teach you proper form and gradually build your strength to meet your goals.
Wear quality shoes.
A quality pair of athletic shoes with good arch support helps with shock absorption and alignment, which protects the knees during exercise. Pay attention to the age of your shoes. Minor knee pain could be an indication that you need a new pair. It’s recommended that athletic shoes be replaced every 300 to 500 miles or every 3 to 6 months.
By alternating high-intensity intervals with short recovery periods, you can get health benefits in less time while challenging your fitness. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the high intensity intervals are performed at 80 to 90 percent of your max heart rate, followed by a rest session working at 40 to 50 percent. The intervals can last anywhere from five seconds to eight minutes each and total as few as 20 minutes for a complete workout. These short workouts have been found to improve fitness, blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity.
You are easily distracted.
An hour spent on a cardio machine can leave you bored and unmotivated. This quickly leads to little things that lower your intensity and calories burned. You might stop to change your playlist, pause to flip through television channels, or slow down so you can read or send a few text messages. Short, high-intensity interval workouts allow no time for distraction. Moving rapidly from one exercise to the next, whether you are doing cardio or strength training, will capture and hold your attention. The time will pass quickly and you will have no need to distract yourself from a long and boring workout.
You skip workouts because you don’t have time.
Lack of time is the number one barrier to exercise. If you find that you skip exercise because you can’t commit a full 30 to 60 minutes, stop using time as an excuse and take advantage of shorter workouts. A 20-minute session is much easier to fit in over the lunch hour or to squeeze in first thing in the morning. Focus on reducing time and increasing intensity to make exercise a regular part of your daily routine.
You want to lose weight.
High-intensity interval training has been found to reduce abdominal fat and total body weight while helping you to maintain muscle mass. According to the American Council on Exercise, one study analyzed men and women who performed shorter bouts of high-intensity exercise lasting fewer than 10 minutes. Results showed that each daily minute of higher intensity activity lowered the odds for obesity by five percent for women and two percent for men. This result led researchers to conclude that it may be the intensity of an activity that is more important than duration when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. Not only did these shorter bouts appear to reduce risk of obesity, but exercisers were more likely to reach the recommendation of 150 minutes of exercise each week when focusing on shorter, more intense sessions.
Summer provides a great opportunity to change your exercise environment. Take a break from the gym and cool off by working out in the water. Here are a few options that will burn calories and make your exercise more enjoyable.
Stand Up Paddleboarding
There are few better ways to challenge your balance than by stand up paddleboarding. Almost every muscle in your body is worked while you stand on the board and paddle your way over the water. If you can’t get to your feet, don’t be discouraged. Staying on your knees still provides an excellent workout. Keep at it for one hour at a moderate pace and you’ll burn 450 calories.
Canoeing and Kayaking
You don’t have to get wet to enjoy the benefits of water exercise. Maneuvering yourself with a paddle as you canoe or kayak across the water challenges the upper body and core muscles. Move at a moderate pace (5 to 5.9 miles per hour) and you will burn 478 calories in an hour while enjoying some scenic views.
Water adds resistance as you kick your legs and swim across the surface, which makes snorkeling a great way to improve fitness and burn calories. Get up close and personal with some marine life for an hour and you’ll burn 319 calories.
Special equipment is not required for getting a great workout in the water. Swimming is an effective form of exercise that is easy on joints. An hour of swimming leisurely with your family will burn 399 calories.
You can increase the intensity and blast calories by turning your time in the water into a challenging workout. Like swimming, water jogging is easy on the joints and the water provides resistance to work the muscles and get the heart pumping. If you are jogging in deep water, consider using a water jogging belt to help you stay afloat. An hour of water jogging burns 558 calories.
A day on the lake with the boat can turn into calories burned when you strap on the skis. Water skiing works the muscles of the legs and core as you balance yourself. The upper body is also challenged by simply keeping a good grip on the ski rope. An hour of water skiing will burn 399 calories.
*All reported calories burned are based on a 150-pound female.
Hydration is always a concern during exercise, but it deserves special attention during the summer. Hot and humid weather can quickly turn thirst and fatigue into a dangerous situation and the need for medical attention. With a few simple steps and by paying attention to warning signs, you can stay safe and hydrated during your summer workouts.
Focus On Fluids
Drinking fluids hydrates cells and replenishes the fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat. Most health experts agree that water is sufficient to keep you hydrated when exercising at a moderate intensity for less than one hour. A sports drink that replenishes electrolytes can be beneficial when exercising for longer periods, at a high intensity, or in hot and humid weather.
According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking when you are thirsty is adequate for most healthy adults to stay hydrated throughout the day, but don’t wait for thirst to start hydrating during exercise. The exact amount of fluid you need varies from person to person. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests monitoring both body weight and urine color to determine your hydration level. If your body weight fluctuates by one pound or less after exercise, and your urine is light in color, you are well hydrated.
After assessing hydration status, the ACSM suggests general guidelines for staying hydrated during your workout.
Drink 16-20 ounces at least four hours before exercise.
Drink 8-12 ounces 10-15 minutes before exercise.
During exercise, drink 3-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes.
After your workout, drink 20-24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost.
Other Factors in Hydration
During exercise, hydration is related to your sweat rate. Sweating is the body’s way of cooling itself. The harder you exercise, or if you are exercising in a hot environment, the more your body is going to sweat and quickly become dehydrated. On hot days, work out in the early morning or in the evening when the sun is less intense and the temperature is cooler. Choose a route or location that is shaded. On days when the heat or humidity reach dangerous levels, take your workout indoors.
Wear light-colored clothing that will reflect sunlight and choose moisture-wicking fabrics. Clothing made of this material helps the sweat to evaporate, cooling the body. Thick fabrics like cotton can trap sweat, become heavy, and cause you to overheat.
Dangers of Dehydration and Overhydration
When your body loses more fluids than you take in, dehydration occurs. Aside from extreme thirst, the first sign of dehydration is often muscle fatigue. If you do not replenish fluids the symptoms of dehydration become more dangerous and include headache, muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion, and unconsciousness. If you suspect you are becoming dehydrated, take a break, go to a cooler environment, and drink fluids.
Unfortunately, dehydration is not the only concern when it comes to fluid balance. When you take in more fluid than your body is losing in sweat, or you take in too much water without replacing lost electrolytes, blood sodium levels drop. This condition, called hyponatremia, causes symptoms similar to, and as dangerous as, dehydration. The ACSM recommends not
consuming more than one quart of fluid per hour during exercise to prevent overhydration.
Push-ups remain one of the best exercises to strengthen and tone the upper body, but don’t limit yourself to the standard version. There are many ways to alter your position and movement during the exercise to make it more challenging and to reduce boredom with your routine.
Each of these exercises start in standard push-up position, on your toes with hands shoulder-width apart on the floor. Your body should stay in a straight line from your head to your heels as you lower your chest to the ground and push back up to the starting position. Drop to your knees for a less challenging exercise.
Position yourself in front of a stair or a sturdy, secure low bench that won’t slip. Get into push-up position with your hands on the stair and your toes or knees on the floor. Lower the chest towards the stair and push back to the starting position.
Position both hands together in the center of the floor below your chest. Move the right hand out wide to the right of your body and place it on the floor. Lower the chest towards the floor. Push up and return the right hand to the starting position. Next, move the left hand out wide to the left of your body. Lower the chest to the floor and push up returning the left hand under the chest. Continue to alternate right and left push ups.
Move your right and left hands out another two to three inches from shoulder-width. Slowly lower your chest to the floor and push back up to the starting position.
Close Grip Push-up
Position both hands together in the center of the floor below chest level. The index fingers and thumbs of both hands should touch slightly, creating a diamond shape on the floor. Lower your chest towards the floor as your elbows point back and stay in close to your torso. Lower your upper body towards the floor to the point where you still have the strength to push yourself back up.
Grip a dumbbell in each hand and get into push-up position. The weight of your upper body should be supported by the dumbbells as you grip the handles. Lower the chest to the ground, push back up to the starting position. Next, pull the right dumbbell off the ground and into your chest, performing a row exercise. Return the dumbbell to the ground and repeat with the left side. Continue to alternate a push-up with a right row and then a left row.