Assuming you are in physical therapy and cleared by your doctor to resume activities (in most cases after about 12 weeks), you should be ready to start a new sport or physical activity. Staying active will also help you strengthen your knee and make it more likely to function well for many years.
Even if you're not hurting anymore post-surgery, it's completely normal to feel nervous that you’ll damage your new knee joint if you participate in physical activity. However, knee replacements have improved quite a bit over the last few decades and artificial replacements are designed to mimic a natural knee. This means that, like a natural knee, it needs exercise to function properly.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends up to 30 minutes of exercise two to three times per day during the early recovery stages, in addition to daily walks. In general, low-impact exercises are best so you don't cause undue stress on your knees.
Walking is one of the best exercises you can do to build up strength in your knee. Start with smaller steps and shorter walks as you work your way up to longer distances. Keep track of how long you walk every day so you can monitor your progress.
Swimming is not a weight-bearing activity, so it’s a great way to exercise without putting stress on your artificial knee. Many people with knee replacements can resume swimming within three to six weeks after surgery. But check with your doctor or physical therapist before diving into the pool.
Cycling is a good way to regain strength in your knee. Whether you use an actual bicycle or an exercise machine, stay on a flat surface and increase your distance slowly. As weird as it might sound, the AAOS recommends peddling backward on a stationary bike as you gradually gain your strength back.
- Elliptical machines
As with cycling, your knees move in a circular motion, which means you can go for longer distances. An elliptical machine is a great alternative to running because you can move faster than walking, without the impact.
Ballroom dancing and gentle modern dancing are great ways to exercise. Dancing is a good way to use leg muscles and engage in light aerobic activity. Just be sure to avoid a lot of twisting, abrupt movements, and jumping that could put your knee out of alignment.
Strength and Flexibility Training
Gentle stretching is a great way to avoid stiffness, improve your flexibility, and boost the overall health of your knee. Like with dancing, it’s important to avoid twisting movements. Remember to also protect your knees by keeping them aligned with your hips and ankles.
Lifting weights helps build strength and diminish knee pain. Your bones will also grow and become stronger if you practice resistance training. Remember to start light and work your way up in weight. Always use weights that are appropriate for your size and strength. Consult with a physical therapist or trainer to develop a workout that is right or you and your body.
These basic exercises rely on simple, rhythmic movements and build strength while increasing your flexibility. Exercises in this category include crunches, pushups, and lunges.
At Staszak Physical Therapy & Wellness Center, we want to make sure you are able to heal and get back to doing what you enjoy. Between our therapists and the instructors and trainers at Evolve Fitness Studios, we have a great team here to make this happen for you. For physical therapy, give us a call at 541-505-8180.
For workout support with trainers focused on injury prevention, call Evolve Fitness Studios at 541-844-1295.