Ways to stay active after a total knee replacement

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Ways to stay active after a total knee replacement

Recovery from a total knee replacement takes time.  But after the surgery and physical therapy have been completed, you’re fully healed and you have your doctor’s blessing, you should be able to return to normal activities.  And that includes returning to physical activity as in exercise.  Resuming exercise is an important part of strengthening your knee making it more likely to function well for many years to come.

Even though it is nice to move without pain, you may have some hesitation or fear of damaging your new knee joint if you begin exercising.  The good thing to know about artificial knee joints is they have improved quite a bit over the years.  But just like a natural knee, your new knee still needs regular workouts to stay functioning properly. 

Most doctors will recommend once you are ready, to gradually ease into exercise slowly building up the number and length of times you work out.  Before starting any new sport or physical activity, always check with your doctor if you are ready and if it is appropriate for you.

With your doctor’s approval, here are some examples of low-impact activities you should be able to do once you’ve recovered and are ready to pick up the pace:

·      Walking

Walking really is the best exercise you can do to build and maintain strength in your new knee.  Start off slow and easy, beginning with small steps and short walks gradually working you way up to longer distances.  Gauge your progress by keeping track of how long you walk each day.

·      Swimming

Swimming is an ideal exercise for anyone who’s had a total knee replacement.  This non-weight bearing activity helps keep your knee moving without added stress.  Before diving into a pool, check with your doctor or physical therapist as to when you can safely enjoy this activity.

·      Cycling

Here is another good exercise to help regain strength in your knee.  Either a stationary bike or the real thing can be used as long you start off slowly and gradually work your way up to a faster pace and for longer distances.

·      Elliptical machines

Mimicking a stationary bike, elliptical machines can provide a good workout without placing much stress on the knees.  Just like cycling, your knees will move in a circular motion giving you the ability to go for a longer length of time.  Using an elliptical machine is also a great alternative to running as it still keeps the knee mobile but without the hard impact.

·      Yoga/Pilates

One thing to avoid is letting your new knee get stiff.  Once stiffness sets in, it can be a real struggle to undue that.  This is why gentle stretching you receive from yoga or Pilates, can improve your flexibility while boosting the overall health of your knee.  Be careful not to avoid twisting movements and to be mindful of protecting your knee by keeping them aligned with your hips and ankles.  Let your yoga or Pilates instructor know of your limitations so they are aware of preventing any extra strain on this joint.

·      Weightlifting

No matter if you’ve had a total knee replacement or not, strength training is vital for everyone.  Lifting weights helps build strength while diminishing knee pain.  It also is important for bone health keeping them strong and dense.  Only lift weights that are appropriate for you and consult with your doctor on the safety of this exercise.  Ideally, work with a physical therapist or personal trainer who can develop a safe weightlifting regimen for you.