‘Oh, my aching knees!’ Sounds familiar? That’s because one of the most complained about body parts for people who work out are bad knees. Although knee pains are complex and problematic, they commonly result from overuse caused by repetitive and recurring movements such as running and weight lifting. Conversely, it may also be due to a traumatic injury or even obesity. Either way, rehabilitation becomes a necessity for relief from a niggling and troublesome pain.
So, before we get to the reasons, let’s get the whole picture of what’s going on.
The way to rehab:
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, when one suffers a knee injury, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments become weak and the joint gets unstable. Rehabilitative exercises strengthen the muscles and joint structures that support the knee, improve stability and increases flexibility and range of motion.
To Exercise or Not to Exercise?
There is no question as to the many benefits of exercising and one of them is developing and maintaining muscle mass. Healthy muscles mean that you can perform everyday physical tasks and recreational activities with relative ease without getting tired or running the risk of injury.
So, what does one do in an injured state such as sore or painful knees?
One thing is for sure, whether the knee problems are caused by arthritis, injury, obesity or plain overuse, one still needs to exercise. That said, high impact or load-bearing exercises will exacerbate the already busted knees. Therefore, the best way forward is low impact which takes most of the load away from the knees. And that is where the stationary bike comes in. Research and many sources state that stationary cycling is the best form of exercise to rehab weakened knees and here are 5 reasons why.
1. Take a load off:
Cycling on a stationary bike takes your weight off the knees (or at least most of it) thereby allowing the quads and hamstring muscles to work without the load. Additionally, cycling does not involve any extreme flexing of the knee joint, as would be required in say weight lifting, nor is one using the knees to sprint only to suddenly stop, like in soccer or tennis or squash.
2. Simple cardio:
“There’s no question that cycling is an excellent way to get a cardiovascular workout without stressing weight-bearing joints.”, according to the Arthritis Foundation. The refreshing release that comes from a good cardio session shouldn’t come at the cost of a limp. You can increase your heart rate and get your circulation pumping with the peddling action. Stationary cycling preserves the knee by putting minimum weight on the joint and it is considered gentler than walking. This makes it a popular and appropriate exercise to help recover from painful knees.
3. Whenever, wherever:
Unlike running outdoors, the beauty of a stationary bike is that you will never be restricted as to when or where you may use it. Whether you choose to peddle in a charged arena, such as a spin class, or the comfort of your own home, the option is always available to you. The best part is that with a stationary bike you can’t indulge in excuses about bad weather; it’s a whenever and wherever convenient form of exercise that’s easy to do and enjoyable as well.
4. Dual action:
Cycling is not only a good cardiovascular workout, it also strengthens major muscle groups that support the back, legs, thighs and hamstring muscles. Pedaling involves two actions: the push, where you engage your quads to push the pedal down; and the pull up which engages the hamstrings to complete the pedaling motion. Strengthening both these muscles groups support and protect the knee joint. The stationary exercise bike is gentle on the knee because the pedaling movement is even and predictable and does not allow the knee to jar against bumps and potholes of an outdoor terrain.
5. Which bike:
There are two options in stationary bikes – upright or recumbent. Both are equally purposeful for rehabilitating the knees, however, choosing one over the other is merely a matter of preference. On the one hand, there is an upright bike. Here, the weight is on the handlebars and the legs are almost fully extended whilst pedaling. Thus, by engaging the core, you use more muscles, thereby turning the experience into a full-body workout. On the other hand, a recumbent bike allows the rider to sit back on a bucket seat with the back supported on a backrest and legs stretched out in front. This allows for the body weight to be transferred on to the machine whilst the pedaling motion painlessly exercises the legs.
The Knee Joint
It is crucial to understand that the knee is a load-bearing joint that is made mainly for stability and forward/backward movement. It primarily comprises of the three largest bones in the body capped by the kneecap or patella. This threesome of joint acts as an anchor point for multiple ligaments and tendons which hold the leg bones and the kneecap in unison. And it is this happy union of bones, ligaments, and tendons that is in turn attached to the leg muscles, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Therefore, strengthening these leg muscles means strengthening the knee joint and therein lays the key to knee pain rehabilitation.
A word of Caution:
Having extensively discussed the relationship between bad knees and stationary bikes, there is, however, a word of caution to be said here. Before starting out on any exercise regimen, you must consult with your medical professional to establish the scope of your exercise program.
Please ensure that any equipment you use must be suited to your body structure and size. Be sure to test the bike for comfort, ease of use and adjustability before taking it for a spin. Then, once all the pieces are in place, your knees will simply come along for the ride.