Weak in the Knees? You CAN Fix That!

As we get older, many of us complain of weakness in the knees and chronic knee pain. Many of us see this weakness as part of the normal run-of-the-mill process of aging, and basically an inevitable malady of getting older. But boy is that ever Wrong! Strength and flexibility in the knees and legs are essential to maintaining our balance, coordination and health as we age, and yes, there ARE things you can do to strengthen your knees and legs so that they can carry you solidly and firmly throughout your entire lifetime.

One thing we must remember is that the knees are only one set of joints in a system of joints that support our entire bodies. So, for example, an injury to the hips or ankles will affect the strength and condition of the knees, because the system of joints in the body is all connected. Posture is critical to the health and strength of our knees, hips and ankles, and so is muscle tone around the ligaments that keep our joints functioning optimally. In order to keep our legs and knees healthy and strong, our entire bodies must be strong and tone, and our posture must be optimal.

At Morphe, our regular Gravity Training routine includes plenty of movements and exercises that strengthen the knees, hips and ankles as well as improving overall balance and posture. Here is a list of some of the basic exercises that help to maintain optimal flexibility and strength in the knees and legs:

  1. Squats ~ these strengthen and tone hips, legs, buttocks, knees and ankles and are an essential staple in any fitness routine. Using Morphe’s Gravity Training System to do your squats on the board also allows for variations such as single-leg squats with legs crossed over knees, or ski squats which help to strengthen knees, calves and ankles and encourage improve coordination. Start with sets of 25.
  1. Jump rope: three minutes of jump rope daily not only provides cardio and fat burning but also strengthen the hips, legs, ankles and knees, encouraging flexibility and strength in these joints. Variations on jump-rope techniques strengthen different leg muscles while also aiding balance and posture, all of which help to maintain better leg and knee health throughout life.
  1. Lunges: variations on this exercise help to open the hip flexors which in turn support mobility and flexibility in the knees. Again, doing these using the glide-board that’s part of our Gravity Training System allows for many variations that strengthen and tone the calves and buttocks, supporting the legs and knees. Start with 20 on each side.
  1. Step-ups: this exercise not only builds strength and flexibility in the knees, but also enhances balance and coordination, strengthening our posture and indirectly supporting leg and knee function as we walk and go about daily activities. Using a low surface approximately 2 feet off the ground, start with 15 forward step-ups with each leg. Variations on this exercise might include extending the raised leg either in front, to the rear or to the side while stepping up.
  1. Walking: This should already be a part of everyone’s daily routine, but it won’t hurt to remind you: walk at least 30 minutes daily and if possible 1 hour daily. Try to walk on different types of terrain including concrete, grass, sand and indoor flooring to strengthen your feet, ankles, legs, knees, buttocks and hips. There is no greater exercise for building strength, balance and posture than daily walking, and your knees and legs will thank you as you grow older.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep!

A lot of my clients come to me with complaints of difficulty sleeping, and it’s no surprise given the number of distractions available to take our attention away from that all-important task of shutting our minds down and resting properly every night.  Whenever I ask “What’s keeping you up at night?” the answers I hear are always similar: the computer, social media, TV, and in some cases, sleep-altering substances such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.  Why has it become so hard to engage in precisely the behavior that is easiest for humans during our infancy? Babies love to go to sleep, and do it frequently. Why, oh why, does this become so difficult once we become adults?

How much sleep is essential

For most adults, the optimal number of hours of sleep varies between 7 and 9 hours per night.  For those that are able to enjoy a 20-minute to 40-minute nap in the afternoon, the evening hours can be shortened slightly.  But don’t think that a nap will reduce your chances of getting a good night’s sleep in the evening: a brief 20-40 minute nap will actually activate your body’s sleep receptors and make you even more likely to relax and fall asleep again at night!

Organize yourself

Most of what keeps us awake at night is anxiety; be it conscious or subconscious.  Anxiety is calmed by rituals, routines, and organization.  Long before going to bed, set yourself up to be free of the usual distractions that keep you from relaxing and freeing your mind at bedtime.  Prepare a pot of relaxing herbal tea, play some soothing music, and turn off the TV.  Clear away the tasks that you know will keep your mind from resting, such as setting out your clothes for work tomorrow. Take a hot bath or shower, turn your phone on silent, and pick a good book or magazine. Light stretching is a great idea, but strenuous exercise is best done during the day!

Hydrate

Lack of proper hydration is a growing concern that affects our daily well-being and many of us aren’t aware of.  Don’t wait until you feel the symptoms of thirst to think about maintaining proper hydration. Try to have a glass of water at least once every hour during waking hours, but don’t try to make up for missed hydration just before bedtime, since a full bladder can keep you from sleeping comfortably and cause you to spend your night in the bathroom instead.  Try to pace yourself throughout the day and reduce the amount of water you drink as you get closer to bedtime.

Black-Out Shades

It has been shown that humans get the best quality Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep in a room that is dark and quiet.  For this reason, one of the best investments you can make is to purchase a set of light-blocking and noise-blocking curtains or shades or your bedroom window.  It is also an excellent idea to remove all electronic devices from the bedroom in order to minimize the influence of electronic waves during sleep.

Self-Hypnosis, Meditation and Online Sleep Aids

If you do decide to keep your phone in the bedroom, you might consider putting it to good use and try one of the many online Self-Hypnosis recordings to assist you in achieving a state of profound relaxation and meditation prior to going to sleep.  Another innovative tool that has come out recently and seems to be helping some is the use of Binaural Beat recordings, which utilize sound technology that delivers complementary stimuli to each side of the brain in such a way as to balance the two sides and produce a state of extremely profound relaxation and/or meditation.  These recordings can induce states of deep relaxation while also altering the subconscious issues and behavioral patterns that keep you battling insomnia.

Cervical & Support Pillows

Is it best to sleep with or without a pillow?  If you are among the lucky few who can sleep comfortably without a pillow under your head, that’s awesome. But if you prefer support for neck and head, consider using an orthopoedic cervical pillow that helps to maintain the C curve in the back of your neck, dramatically reducing the chances of a neck injury caused by sleeping with your neck extended in the wrong position.

Depending on your regular sleeping position, an extra pillow can also enhance your comfort level and maintain your spine aligned optimally while you sleep.  If you are a back sleeper, a cervical pillow supporting the C-curve of your neck is optimal, and you might try also adding a pillow under the knees to support your legs.  For side sleepers, a pillow slipped between the knees can take pressure off the lower back and hips.  Stomach sleepers can benefit from using a support pillow placed under the abdomen to relieve pressure on the lower back and pelvis.

Count Your Blessings

Once you’ve covered all the aforementioned tips and you’re ready to tuck yourself in quietly under the covers, consider the old time-tested technique of counting sheep to help keep your mind off troubles and allow you to go to sleep.  But in this new version of counting sheep, every sheep represents something you’re grateful for in your life, a blessing that you wish to appreciate daily.  This exercise will not only help you to fall asleep faster, but it will also help you to wake up refreshed, grateful and optimistic in the morning!

The Morphe Method: Private Stretching

Stretching sessions dramatically increase your Range of Motion (ROM), flexibility, and muscle strength.  Athletes understand the importance of proper, regular stretching exercises for improved performance and endurance in sports, and it is known that Olympic Athletes use isolated stretching as an integral part of their training and in preparation for competition. In fact, proper stretching of the body’s muscles enhances all forms of physical activity. You will see reduced pain and inflammation, greater mobility, increased stamina, and improved quality of sleep.  Stretching is for every body!