For many people, knee replacement surgery is a critical step to restoring a pain-free life and regaining the full function of your knee joint. This can be a life-changing procedure that leads you along a path toward a healthier lifestyle. Once you fully recover, you should be able to resume many of the physical activities that had become too painful to enjoy prior to knee replacement.
Your new prosthetic knee joint is designed to function just like a natural knee, and it should withstand significant levels of physical activity. Despite this reality, many knee replacement patients struggle to stay fit after recovering from surgery. One of the telltale signs of this is the propensity for weight gain after knee replacement surgery. According to a study published in the University of Delaware journal “Osteoarthritis & Cartilage,” 66% of knee replacement patients are about 15 pounds heavier two years after surgery.
When you fail to stay fit and maintain a healthy weight after your procedure, it places extra strain on your new knee joint, increasing the chances of reinjury or premature damage to your prosthetic joint. For this reason, it’s crucial that you maintain an active lifestyle and stay fit after knee replacement surgery.
Post-Knee Replacement Fitness Tips
You should always follow the recommendations of your knee surgeon and your physical therapy team regarding the types of activities you can participate in and the intensity with which you can engage in physical exercise. But there are also some general tips you can follow that will help you stay active without placing stress on your new knee:
Focus on low-impact activities – To prolong the lifespan of your prosthetic joint and minimize the risk of reinjuring your knee, it’s best to engage in low-impact exercises and activities which won’t place unnecessary stress on your knees. Fortunately, many low-impact activities are available (more below).
Consistent exercise is crucial – Exercising once a week (or less) won’t be sufficient to maintain a healthy lifestyle after knee replacement. To stay fit, you need consistent exercise. You should aim for at least 20-30 minutes of exercise three to four times a week.
Choose activities you enjoy – You’re more likely to maintain the consistency discussed above if you enjoy the activities you participate in. Doing what you like will not only improve your consistency but will also lead to engaging in these activities for more extended periods. Talk to your surgeon about the range of safe activities after knee replacement, and pick a few that appeal to you.
Stretching is essential, too – Stretching will help you maintain flexibility in your knees. It’s a good idea to stretch before and after workouts to ensure you remain as flexible as possible. Your physical therapy team can advise you on the best stretching exercises to include in your routine.
Best Exercises to Stay Fit After Knee Replacement
You have many options when staying active after knee replacement. While it’s best to mix up your routine, choosing activities you enjoy is essential.
Aerobic exercises are great to include in your routine, as they help maintain proper knee strength and function while boosting cardiovascular health. The following aerobic activities are great after knee replacement:
Walking – Start with small walks and gradually ramp up to longer distances as your knee gets stronger.
Swimming – Swimming is one of the best exercises after knee replacement since it doesn’t place any stress on your knee joint and provides a full body workout.
Dancing – Dancing provides light aerobic exercise and engages your leg muscles. Avoid abrupt or twisting motions and high impact movements which can damage your knee.
Cycling – Cycling is another low impact exercise that is great for regaining knee strength and maintaining cardiovascular health. Stay on flat surfaces and gradually increase your distance as your knee gets stronger.
Elliptical machines – Running is too high an impact and should be avoided after knee replacement. Elliptical machines provide an excellent alternative for runners since they minimize the stress on your knees.
Strength and Flexibility Exercises
As we discussed earlier, strength and flexibility exercises are important to your fitness regimen after knee replacement. The following activities will deliver these essential benefits:
Yoga – Yoga can help improve flexibility and avoid stiffness after knee replacement. Make sure to maintain proper lower body alignment and avoid twisting movements to protect your artificial knee. You should also let your yoga instructor know that you’ve had a knee replacement so they can recommend any modifications necessary to protect your knee.
Weight training – Weight training is a great way to strengthen your knee. Consult a personal trainer to ensure you’re using appropriate weights for your size and strength. Personal training sessions will also help you learn the proper form to avoid injuries.
Calisthenics – Light calisthenics can help build strength and flexibility. Exercises such as crunches, lunges, and pushups are great for your routine.
Recreational activities can be a great source of exercise. If you participated in any of the following activities before knee replacement, you could resume them once cleared to do so by your knee surgeon:
Golf – Golf helps increase your walking and provides a source of both upper and lower body exercise.
Doubles tennis – In most instances, singles will require too much running to be safe after knee replacement surgery. However, doubles require less movement and can generally be resumed once fully healed without placing undue stress on your knee.
Rowing – Rowing is another activity that minimizes stress on your knees. It’s also a good source of full body and cardiovascular exercise, making it a great activity to include in your routine.
Bowling – This is a fun social activity that provides light exercise. It’s best to use a lighter ball to minimize stress on your knee.
We also have an in-house physical therapy team to assist with your rehab after knee replacement. Working with our physical therapists provides the benefit of greater collaboration with Dr. Borchard. This ensures your surgical and physical therapy teams are aligned on your treatment plan, allowing you to experience the best possible outcome.
Contact us to schedule an appointment. Colorado Advanced Orthopedics serves patients in Meeker and throughout the White River Valley.
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