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Great exercises to avoid knee pain this winter

No matter what your age is, cold weather always brings out aches and pains in your joints. especially the knees. Here is how you can avoid them

Do these exercises for healthy, pain free knees.
Do these exercises for healthy, pain free knees. (Istockphoto)

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Now that winter is technically upon us, it is time for the joints to send a hefty tax bill for how you’ve been using them over the past few months. Didn’t warm-up on a hot day before that 5km run? Forgot working on the muscles surrounding the ankles, knees and shoulders? Didn’t keep those hamstrings and calves mobile? Every evasion will cost. Thankfully, if one has been relatively fit and active, these issues will be mere flare-ups and imbalances rather than full-blown injuries or tears.Chief among the pain that will be felt, will be around the knee. Whether it's the anterior, medial, lateral or posterior side of it, or just above or below it, it is unrealistic to think there isn’t a minor issue in every knee, especially if one’s lifestyle is not tuned to keeping them healthy.

“Your knee routinely feels the force of five to eight times your body weight with every step, making it the most taxed joint of the human body. A knee is designed to withstand millions of steps during a lifetime, but sometimes all that stress can cause your knees to break down,” says a New York Times article titled A User Manual For Your Knees. Written by Dr. Jordan Metzl, one of the most popular orthopaedic and sports injury specialists in the USA, it adds that while not all knee issues are preventable, a lot of them can be avoided and/or fixed, irrespective of age.

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Which brings us to that magic formula again: strength, mobility, and flexibility. Using this on the muscles supporting the knee is important: these include the quadriceps, the glutes, the IT bands and even the feet and calves. That doesn’t mean hopping onto the leg extension machine and repping out sets till your quads hurt. Taking care of the knees is more subtle, and sometimes boring (glute bridges, foam-rolling, and squats), but the way it responds to even 10 minutes spent on their upkeep makes it worth it. So here are four great workouts for your knees, ranging from 10 minutes to half an hour, and include all three elements of knee care.

10-minute strength workout for knee pain: I was sorer than usual after a game of football last weekend, and I knew it was because I was slacking on my IT band strengthening game. This 10-minute video by Studio Jibby was just the right amount of strengthening and activation I needed to reduce the pain and it worked for me almost instantly. You might need more or less, but this video is honest in its claim that you should do it three times a week for desired effects.

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25-minute hip and ankle mobility: Slightly harder than the previous one, but more detailed in its application to the hips and ankles, this one is a lower body routine you must try. If nothing, it will point you towards your muscle imbalances, which you can then add some extra work to. Some of the moves here need advanced flexibility, so remember to do them with care and within your range of motion.

20-minute hip flexor flexibility routine with Tom Merrick: Merrick is one of my go-to YouTubers for mobility work. His workouts are steady, easy going, and he takes his time for the deep stretches. Stretching hip flexors are more important than you might think. This muscle makes sure that the legs are travelling properly since they cause ‘flexion’. If flexion fails, other areas of the body will overcompensate, including the lower back. Merrick’s video is excellent to stretch them out and make sure the flexors are working.

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15-minute knee strengthening to avoid runner’s knee: Runner’s knee is a problem that will cause pain in the front of the knee, just where the thigh bone connects with the patella. Once again, causes include tight hamstrings, tight achilles tendons, and weak thighs. This quick routine by Vlad Ixel involves balance work for stability, and lots of stretches to unlock the areas which might be causing the runner’s knee.

Just a week of rotating these videos on alternate days will set up a routine which you will start appreciating, especially because it is not targeted at just the knees. However, it is important to know how bad the pain is and make sure you see a professional before the problem worsens. As with any other joint, listen to your knee and offer it assistance. After all, it is the foundation of most human movements.

Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.

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