Most major insurances accepted.  
Skip to main content

The Worst Activities to Do for Your Knees

The Worst Activities to Do for Your Knees

Regular physical activity offers many critical health benefits, including improved joint health. But if you have knee pain or are at risk for knee pain, some activities can do more harm than good.

William Schell, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, helps patients identify the activities that can help them support knee health and avoid doing more damage to their joints. In this post, he reviews some of the activities you should avoid (or at least limit) if you have pain in your knees.

High-impact sports

High-impact sports that require a lot of jumping or other repetitive impacts put a lot of stress and strain on your knee joints, particularly the cartilage that lines your joints. Over time, these activities can lead to painful knee arthritis. Low-impact activities, like walking, swimming, and biking, offer similar aerobic benefits but without the added strain on your knees.

Interestingly, while running involves the repetitive impact on your knees, research suggests running when young may decrease the risk of knee arthritis later. The key to reducing knee pain risk is choosing the right shoes, avoiding running on concrete, and resting your knees between workouts.

Sports that require lots of pivoting

Football, basketball, tennis, and dancing are all sports that require you to change directions rapidly. Pivoting movements put a lot of strain on the knees, which can pull the knees in different directions.

Pivoting puts extra strain on your knee ligaments, including the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a common source of knee pain among athletes. Over time, weakened ligaments and tendons make future knee injuries and chronic knee pain more common.

Lifting weights

Like most activities on this list, weight-lifting offers many health benefits. But over a prolonged period, bending and lifting can take a toll on your knees. 

If your knees are healthy and you don’t have knee pain currently, you may be able to lift weights safely if you follow proper form and increase weight loads slowly to avoid straining the joints.

Squats and lunges

Squats and lunges are frequently included in workout routines, and for a good reason: Done properly and with healthy knees, both squats and lunges can help maintain muscle strength in your legs. 

But like any repetitive activity, squats and lunges can increase joint damage if you already have knee pain, and they could “speed up” joint damage if you’re prone to arthritis but don’t have any symptoms yet. Dr. Schell can recommend ways to change your techniques or incorporate other exercises to achieve the same benefit without damaging your knee joints.

Sitting for long periods

It might seem counterintuitive that sitting could be bad for your knees. After all, you’re not overloading the joints when you're sitting.

However, if you sit for long periods each day — for work or recreation — the muscles that support your knees will atrophy and weaken. Loss of muscle strength in your legs increases the work your knees need to do when walking or doing other activities, increasing wear inside the joint. 

Plus, the lubricating fluid inside your knees isn't well distributed if you're sedentary. This fluid bathes the joint components and helps prevent friction inside the knees. You're at increased risk of friction, pain, and joint damage if it's not well distributed.

The proper activities for your knees

It’s important to note that this list primarily focuses on people with knee pain due to arthritis or other causes. If your knees are healthy, you can safely engage in most of these activities if you use proper form, wear the right shoes, avoid overexertion, and get lots of rest between workouts.

Bottom line: With or without knee pain, consulting with Dr. Schell about your physical activity routine is a great way to ensure you reap the benefits of activity without increasing the risk of knee damage. To learn what else you can do to protect your knees or how we can help you relieve knee pain, call 646-381-2646 or book an appointment online with Dr. Schell today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

How We Diagnose a Tendon Injury

How We Diagnose a Tendon Injury

When you’re dealing with orthopedic issues, the most important step is getting the right diagnosis so you can get on the road to relief without delay. Here’s how we accomplish just that with tendon injuries.
6 Signs of Patellar Instability

6 Signs of Patellar Instability

If you think your kneecap is just a protective shield, think again. This important part of your knee joint also joins muscles that allow you to move your leg, so when your kneecap is unstable, so is your leg.
5 Tips to Prepare for Knee Replacement Surgery

5 Tips to Prepare for Knee Replacement Surgery

Your knee pain isn’t getting any better, and you’ve decided that total knee replacement is your best option for, quite literally, moving forward. To make this journey smoother, we offer some tips.