Congratulations on making it through your recovery from your total knee replacement(s)! Hopefully, you’ve begun traveling down the road towards the level of wellness you sought by undertaking this type of surgery. To maximize your quality of life and ensure the longevity of your knee(s), it is highly encouraged that you maintain an active lifestyle after you’ve completed your physical therapy. Davis Reyes, physical therapist, offers tips to help you accomplish this goal:
1. Be safe. There are a wide range of low-impact sports and activities that are safe and recommended for your knee replacement(s), including low impact aerobics, swimming, casual hiking, golf and doubles tennis. Contact your physician or physical therapist for a full listing of activities that are and aren’t recommended.
2. Do what you like. In order to adhere to an exercise regimen, it’s better to find a sport or activity that you enjoy doing. Whether it’s an individual or a group activity, taking part in what makes you happy will ensure that you stay active and conditioned for a longer period of time. It’s good not only for your knees, but also for your overall health.
3. Consistency vs. Quantity. Hopefully, upon discharge from physical therapy, you received a home exercise program or activity guide that you can perform independently or with a group of friends or individuals who’ve undergone the same procedure. It’s important to perform your exercise program a minimum of 3-4 times per week in order to keep the muscles of your legs and your knee(s) flexible and conditioned. One time every week or every other week will not be enough. Exercising for 20-30 minutes 3-4 times per week will be sufficient to keep your knees properly conditioned.
4. Walking is good, biking is better. Many people prefer the simple of activity of walking in order to maintain the conditioning of their knee(s). This is perfectly fine. However, consider this: walking utilizes only 75 – 80 degrees of knee motion whereas biking uses a minimum of 110 degrees of knee motion. You have a new knee(s); use it to its maximum potential! The more range of motion you introduce into your knee(s) with sports or activities, the more you’ll maintain greater flexibility and greater activation of muscle. If you have access to an exercise facility, you can use a stationary bike or recumbent (reclined) bike. Or, if you prefer exploring the outdoors and are safe using a normal bike, that would do as well.
5. No gym necessary. Many people think that they need a gym and access to equipment in order to maintain the conditioning of their knees. This is not true. There are many exercises that can be performed in the comforts of your own home using your own body weight or some extremely affordable equipment such as a physioball. You can ask your physician or general practitioner for a prescription to consult with your local physical therapist, who can develop an individualized home program based on your level of activity if you have not already received one.
6. Stay flexible. After completing your exercise program, make sure you take some time to stretch your knees. Maintaining the flexibility of your knees is as important to the conditioning of your knee(s) as strengthening. There are many stretches that will help maintain both your ability to bend and straighten them. Please consult with your local physical therapist on the various ways and proper forms.
Consult with your physician before starting an exercise regimen. Good luck and have fun!
Davis Reyes is a physical therapist with the Rehabilitation Department at Hospital for Special Surgery.