In his three nationally acclaimed decades of helping people with physical challenges get back into shape, from heart patients to NFL athletes, there is one thing that Frank Musumeci is sure of:
“Everyone is different. There is no one-size-fits-all exercise prescription. With each person, we design a fitness plan based on the set of circumstances we see with that particular individual.”
How To Exercise With Bad Knees
Because of his 27 years of specialization in the treatment of knees in clinical orthopedic settings, Mr. Musumeci is also keenly aware that “orthopedic issues go hand in hand with getting older.”
And the knees seem particularly vulnerable. Many people ages 50, 60, and older arrive at the Pritikin health and weight-loss resort with knee problems, and many are asking how to exercise with bad knees.
“But first,” points out Mr. Musumeci, “we need to assess the pain. What’s causing it? Is it, for example, related to the way your heels are striking the ground? Or the overall way you walk? Or the shoes you’re wearing? Or the type of exercise you’re currently doing?”
There are multiple possibilities, which is why, in his Back and Joint Pain Prevention Package at Pritikin, Mr. Musumeci spends the first 90 minutes not with exercise training or workouts but simply assessing the body, analyzing every intricate way it moves. Variables carefully scrutinized include:
- Muscle strength
- Range of motion
- Pain or discomfort in daily activities
Then, each person receives a personalized exercise routine. And then, one on one, each person learns his or her new routine in two private 60-minute sessions with one of Pritikin’s university-degreed exercise physiologists.
“We’re looking at the body biomechanically,” explains Mr. Musumeci. “And what we often find is that people had been exercising incorrectly, and, as a result, making their discomforts worse.”
His goals at Pritikin are helping guests:
- Work around limitations
- Exercise without pain, or with as little pain as possible
- Achieve weight loss and good cardiovascular fitness
- Practice biomechanical prevention, “so that hopefully you’ll need specialists less frequently, or not at all.”
How To Exercise With Bad Knees | Cross Training
A major burden on knees is being overweight or obese. Carrying extra weight puts extra strain on the joints.
In fact, every pound of body weight means at least three extra pounds of stress at the knee joint.
The good news is, losing weight can have incredible benefits. Shedding just five pounds can take at least 15 pounds of stress off the knees.
At Pritikin, the health resort’s diet and exercise program results in well-documented weight loss, which in and of itself “contributes greatly to the pain relief that many of our guests start experiencing here,” notes Mr. Musumeci.
“But even for people who are normal weight, knee pain happens.”
For all guests, one key technique taught at Pritikin to minimize knee pain is cross training. “We advise our guests to walk for everyday living, like shopping and walking at the office, but we coach them in using other forms of movement for cardiovascular exercise, such as air-resistant bicycles, ellipticals, and swimming.”
Water-based workouts like aqua jogging with friction shoes have proven especially effective. “We’ve found that for many of our guests with knee pain, this workout does a very good job of raising heart rate and strengthening the muscles in the legs, but without the impact.”
How To Exercise With Bad Knees | Stress Relief
Another strategy at Pritikin is learning how to put less stress on the knees while walking. Guests are taught, for example, to:
- Wear proper walking shoes
- Use treadmills with very good shock absorbency built into them (which usually means staying away from the cheaper brands of treadmills)
- Choose kinder, gentler surfaces when walking outside – grass or running tracks, for instance, instead of cement
“One form of cardio-exercise that works well for many of our guests is the retro treadmill,” adds Mr. Musumeci. Essentially, it’s walking backwards. “It has less heel strike compared to regular treadmills, which means you’re absorbing the shock a little bit better, but it gives you a great cardio workout and strengthening of the quads.”
How To Exercise With Bad Knees | Flexibility Training
A daily mantra of Mr. Musumeci and the entire exercise staff at Pritikin is: Walking is an exercise, but there are other exercises that we should perform so that we can walk well.
Almost every day at the health resort, guests attend flexibility classes that help:
- Create less wear and tear on joints, including knee joints
- Develop a strong core
- Maintain good biomechanical alignment
- Relieve pain, from the feet up
Many Americans, particularly those age 50 and older, have resigned themselves to pain. They feel it’s simply a normal condition, a part of getting older.
“While it’s true that pain, particularly knee, feet, hip, and back pain, often comes with age, here at Pritikin we help our guests find ways to work around that pain,” counsels Mr. Musumeci.
“We minimize it, and sometimes even eliminate it, all of which helps people get back to exercising and achieving great cardiovascular fitness.”