Climb Stairs for Exercise without Stressing Your Knees

September 25, 2014
You want to exercise but don’t have the time? Solution, climb stairs! It’s one of the best forms of exercise and most people have steps available either at home or at the office. Seven minutes of stair climbing a day offers many benefits. It burns more calories than jogging or cycling, reduces the risk of heart disease by 60% and as a low-impact activity it places much less stress on the body than running.
According to Gin Miller, who developed step aerobics, people with bad knees can actually strengthen the muscles supporting the knees by climbing stairs. In the mid 1980s Gin consulted with an orthopaedic doctor who recommended she strengthen the muscles supporting the knee by stepping up and down on a milk crate and from this she developed the step regimen.
But if you have bad knees strengthening your muscles isn’t the whole story. Ineffective movement patterns can cause more stress to your knees. The good news is if you learn to move functionally you can have your exercise and save your knees from excess wear and tear. 
Have a look at your own strategy for climbing stairs. Do you pull yourself up with your front leg or push off with your back leg? If you pull up with your front leg you’re trying to lift the weight of your whole body and the entire workload is going into that leg. 
On the other hand if you push off with the back leg the workload is shared between the two legs. That way lifting the body weight reduces effort and puts less stress on the forward knee. The other thing that makes climbing easier is the angle of the body relative to the stairs. Do you stand up straight or lean slightly forward from your hips? Try both positions and I think you’ll find if you lean in towards the stairs it will cause less strain and effort. 
If you have difficulty going down stairs you’ll find there is minimal stress to your knees if you go down backwards.
Thousands of people have benefited from Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement® lessons; however, we cannot anticipate the needs and/or limitations of individuals. The material contained in this lesson is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. Consult your doctor or physiotherapist if you have any concerns. Responsibility for the lessons is strictly that of the user.


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