If you’ve had a knee replacement, you’re in good company. By 2030, total knee replacement surgeries are projected to grow 637% to 3.5 million procedures per year (source). So, the big question is, is there life after a knee replacement? Can you go back to the activities and exercises you once enjoyed? The good news is that there have been more and more studies, like this one, to suggest that high-impact activities may be realistic once more for knee replacement patients. There’s still debate, however, whether or not this will wear out your knee replacement faster. Regardless, no one’s running a marathon a few weeks after surgery. So here are some exercises and activities to avoid right after having a knee replacement, whether or not there’s hope for a future in ski racing.
Avoid these activities post knee-surgery:
- High-impact sports. Sports like basketball, football, soccer, and hockey can wreak havoc on your knees (and may be the culprit for your knee replacement to begin with). Not only do you have your own weight and twisting motion impacting your knees with these jarring sports, you have other players who are unpredictable in their movements and could take you out at any moment (source). So even if it’s just a friendly, family game of flag football, probably best to avoid the risks this may bring soon after surgery.
- High-impact Aerobics. Whether you love sweatin’ to the oldies or bouncin’ with Beyoncé, aerobics can put a lot of strain on your knees in short, impactful bursts. If you’re not willing to give up your aerobics routine, talk to your doctor about modifications that will be gentler on your knees while still allowing you to get your groove on as you ease your way back to the dance star that you are. (source)
- Running/Jogging. Surprisingly, studies show no link between arthritis (the cause for most knee replacements) and running itself. It’s injuries caused by running like a torn ACL or meniscus tear that can lead to arthritis and therefore a potential knee replacement. There’s still a lot of controversy, however, on running/jogging after a knee replacement. It’s probably best to walk for a while after a knee replacement and discuss a plan with your doctor if you really want to dust off your running shoes. (source)
So what exercises should you do after a knee replacement?
While there’s often a long list of exercise “don’ts” after knee replacement surgeries, here are some that allow you to stay in shape and strengthen your knee without over-taxing it. As always, consult your doctor as to whether these, or any exercises, are appropriate after surgery as well as when you can start doing them and the duration.
- Walking. This is a great, gentle way to build up strength in your knee again. Start with smaller steps and shorter walks until you can work your way up to longer distances without discomfort.
- Swimming. Because swimming isn’t a weight-bearing activity, it’s a great way to get some exercise without affecting your new knee.
- Cycling. Whether indoors or out, cycling is also a great way to strengthen your knee without putting too much weight on it. Just be sure to stay on flat surfaces and increase your distance gradually each time.
- Low-resistance Weightlifting. Lifting weights can build strength and diminish knee pain. It’s critical, however, that you get the green light from your doctor and instructions on the best program/regimen for you.
In summary, you may not be limited by your knee replacement in the future. Short-term, however, take it easy and play it safe. Trade high-impact exercises for minimum weight-bearing ones with the guidance of your doctor.
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