A knee replacement may be your ticket to a healthier and more active lifestyle. Once you recover, you can return to many activities that were too painful and difficult for you before surgery.
In most cases, you can resume many of your normal activities after about 12 weeks. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new sport or physical activity. Together, you can make a plan for suitable exercises.
Exercise can help:
- strengthen your knee muscles and keep you mobile in the long term
- manage your weight
- relieve stress
After surgery, you may be looking forward to moving without pain, but nervous that you’ll damage your new knee joint if you participate in physical activity.
Artificial knees are designed to mimic a natural knee. This means that, like a natural knee, they need exercise to function properly.
Exercise will enable you to strengthen your knee muscles and help you maintain a healthy weight.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), your doctor or physical therapist may recommend doing both of the following each day:
- exercising for 20–30 minutes, 2–3 times
- walking for 30 minutes, 2–3 times
In other words, you could be exercising for 2 hours each day.
Your doctor will provide recommendations for activity based on your needs and overall health. In general, they will recommend low-impact exercises over high-impact versions that can add stress to your knees.
Here are a few examples of low-impact activities and sports that you should be able to do once you recover from surgery.
Walking is one of the best exercises you can do to build up strength in your knee. It’s also a good way to burn calories and benefit your heart.
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 gauge your progress. Consider using a pedometer to count your steps.
Running is an aerobic activity like walking, but it’s much more high-impact. For this reason, the AAOS doesn’t recommend jogging or running after a total knee replacement.
Swimming is not a weight-bearing activity, so it’s a great way to exercise without putting stress on your artificial knee. Other types of water exercises, such as aqua aerobics, are also a good choice.
Many people with knee replacements can resume swimming 3–6 weeks after surgery. But check with your doctor or physical therapist before diving into the pool.
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.
Avoid twisting and abrupt movements that could put your knee out of alignment. Also avoid high-impact movements such as jumping.
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.
The AAOS recommends peddling backward on a stationary bike as you gradually gain your strength back. You can track your activity and time yourself to make it more challenging.
These machines can provide a good workout without placing undue stress on the knees.
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.
Gentle stretching is a great way to avoid stiffness, improve your flexibility, and boost the overall health of your knee. It’s important to avoid twisting movements, and it’s critical to protect your knees by keeping them aligned with your hips and ankles.
Talk with your yoga instructor before class so they’re aware of your limitations. This will help prevent extra strain on your knee. If you feel any knee pain, modify the exercise or consider taking a break.
Lifting weights helps build strength and diminish knee pain. Your bones will also grow and become stronger if you practice resistance training.
Use weights that are appropriate for your size and strength. Check with your doctor before engaging in a weightlifting program. If necessary, consult with a physical therapist or trainer to map out a regimen.
These basic exercises rely on simple, rhythmical movements, and help build strength while increasing flexibility. Examples include crunches, pushups, and lunges.
You should also consider gentle aerobics. These classes are available at most gyms. Just make sure you skip high-impact exercises.
The golf course provides a good way to walk and exercise various muscles in your lower and upper body.
Avoid wearing spikes that could get caught in the ground, and make sure you maintain good balance when you hit the ball.
Spend adequate time warming up at the driving range, and use a golf cart once you hit the course. If you experience any problems, call off the round and consult your doctor.
Doubles tennis requires less movement than singles, so it’s a good way to exercise without placing undue stress on your knee.
In most cases, you can begin playing tennis 6 months following your surgery. Be sure to avoid running and keep your games low-impact.
Rowing provides a good upper body and heart workout while placing minimal stress on the knees. Make sure you adjust the seat on the machine so that your knees are bent 90 degrees or more.
It’s generally safe to bowl after knee replacement surgery, but you should consider using a lighter ball to reduce stress on your knee. Stop bowling if you begin to feel any pain in your knees.
The AAOS estimates that over 90 percent of people who get knee replacements have less knee pain and feel like their overall quality of life has improved.
Working out can keep your weight down, which may also help reduce wear and tear on your new knee joints.
Rushing into activities before you’ve sufficiently recovered may put you at risk for complications. It’s important to take things slowly and gradually build your way up to a comprehensive exercise routine.
Check with your doctor before engaging in any activities after knee surgery. Above all, stop working out immediately if you feel any knee pain or discomfort.