The best gym exercises for knee replacement rehabilitation are those that improve range of motion and strength. A stationary bike is a great option as it improves mobility and lower body strength. Before getting started, make sure you know the best and the worst exercises after a knee replacement.
The gym offers many options to help strengthen your legs after a knee replacement. Stick to machines like the stationary bike and leg press, while avoiding activities like jumping or running, which can put too much stress on your new joint.
Knee Replacement Overview
Knee replacement surgery, also known as knee arthroplasty, is a good choice for those people who have severe pain due to osteoarthritis, says the Mayo Clinic. These people have difficulty doing things like walking, climbing stairs and standing up out of a chair.
This procedure involves removing the damaged bone and cartilage from your kneecap, shinbone and thigh bone and replacing it with an artificial joint that is made of special metal alloys, as well as polymers and high-grade plastics.
The surgery has an excellent recovery rate, with more than 90 percent of patients saying they have a big reduction in pain and improved ability to do activities, reports the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
You may be surprised to find out that you may start moving and exercising your new knee the day after surgery, says the AAOS. Once you are released from the hospital, listen to your physical therapist or doctor as they can help you choose the best exercise machine for knee rehabilitation.
If you do your prescribed exercises, you can expect to resume your normal activities within three to six weeks and be able to drive four to six weeks after surgery.
Gym Exercises for Knee Replacement
The best exercise machine for knee rehabilitation after surgery will focus on increasing range of motion and improving strength. The AAOS recommends exercising for 20 to 30 minutes, two to three times a day, and walking for 30 minutes to regain your strength and mobility after surgery.
The stationary bike is a great post-knee-replacement exercise machine as it improves range of motion, flexibility and blood flow. The AAOS says to raise the seat of the bike so the bottom of your foot just touches the pedal.
You will pedal backward at first, doing partial revolutions, and then progress to full revolutions. Once you can pedal backward easily, you can start pedaling forward.
Start adding resistance four to six weeks post-surgery. Aim for 10 to 15 minutes twice a day and build your way up to 20 to 30 minutes, three to four times a week, on the bike.
Another post-knee-replacement exercise machine that will help regain function is the leg press. The University of Wisconsin recommends the supine leg press with minimal weight (20 to 40 pounds), progressing to more weight as tolerated. This machine helps strengthen your entire lower leg, which is an important part of recovery. When you are at home, you can replicate this machine with mini squats.
Walking is one of the best exercises you can do after surgery. The AAOS recommends initially using a walker and progressing gradually to a cane at two to three weeks after surgery. You can stop using a cane once you can walk without a limp.
Once you can move around without a cane, the treadmill is a good post-knee-replacement exercise machine. Keep the incline level and the speed slower initially, progressing it as your strength and endurance improve. Do not run on the treadmill, as this puts too much stress on your new knee.
Stairs are a great exercise, but avoid the stair stepper machine immediately after knee replacement surgery as you may injure yourself until you build up your strength and coordination. The AAOS suggests finding a flight of stairs and using the handrail to go up the stairs with your good knee, and down the stairs on your recovering knee to build up strength and mobility.
Exercises to Avoid After Surgery
As you can see, the best exercise machines for knee rehabilitation are those that increase your flexibility and strength without putting a lot of stress on the joints.
The Mayo Clinic states that excessive activity can wear out your artificial knee and cause the replacement to become loose and painful. Therefore, it's safer to avoid high-impact activities, such as running and jumping. Lifting more than 50 pounds can overload your knee joint, so stick to lighter weights.
Luckily, there are plenty of activities you can do after a knee replacement, including swimming, golfing, driving, light hiking, dancing and Pilates. Start slowly, listen to your body and stop any activity that causes pain or discomfort.
You may have some pain or swelling after exercise, but it shouldn't last longer than 24 hours. Ice your knee and elevate it after your exercise routine to help decrease pain and inflammation. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have.