Despite being some of the most resilient parts of your body, your knees take a lot of beating over time. After all, you use them to sit, stand, walk, run, and make countless other movements with your legs—and depending on the movement, you put a surprising amount of pressure on your knees.
In fact, according to Harvard Medical School researchers, when you walk, the force placed on your knees is equivalent to about 1½ times your body weight—meaning a 140-pound woman puts 210 pounds of pressure on her knees with every step. Walk up and down stairs and that force is 2 to 3 times your body weight. And when you squat down, you place a staggering 4 to 5 times your body weight on your poor knees (which is why proper form is essential when doing squats and lunges). Considering this, it’s no wonder so many people complain of knee pain as they get older.
To keep these important joints healthy, first focus on maintaining a healthy weight and a proper posture. “Each pound of body weight can have a significant impact on the stress you place on your knees over time,” says Jake Pacheco, a personal trainer who specializes in knee and hip joint anatomy and founder of Modern Body, an online personal training platform. Then, it’s important to incorporate some key moves into your routine. Here, Pacheco shares his top 5 exercises that’ll help keep your knees pain-free as you age.
Yes, you probably heard this one before, and it bears repeating: Walking is one of the best exercises you can do for overall health and wellness. And it’s particularly helpful for aging knees, says Pacheco. “Walking is an effective cardiovascular exercise that puts the least amount of stress on your joints, which makes it a great way to stay active, maintain proper weight, and to maintain your mobility as you get older,” he says. Starting a walking workout—even if it’s just a 15- or 30-minute stroll around your neighborhood once a day—can be especially important if your knees are often stiff, Pacheco adds. “Staying sedentary will make stiff knees stiffer,” he says. “Walking is an easy way to get moving, and it’s accessible for everyone.”