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When walking, the load on knees and hips depends on body weight.
It's no wonder the hips and knees tend to develop osteoarthritis as we age: The leg joints take a beating when we walk, absorbing at least 1.5 times our body weight with each step we take.
Although those of average weight exert 1.5 times their weight in force on their hips and knees with each step, obesity can triple that amount.
More Weight Equals More Force
The pressure on the hip and knee joints increases for those who are overweight, adding two to three times an individual's body weight to the force placed on these joints. Exercise can reduce both weight and force on the hip and knee joints, but it can create a vicious cycle if the extra weight already contributes to joint pain. However, there are solutions to reduce the strain on your hips and knees.
Take Some Weight Off
If your knees and hips are groaning in pain from the added force of a few extra pounds, don't give up and flop down on the couch. Diet plus exercise resulting in a 20 percent reduction in body weight is the most effective way to decrease pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis in the joints, according to a 2018 study by Wake Forest University. Swimming and water aerobics are two ideal forms of calorie-burning exercise that minimize stress on the joints. Practices such as yoga and resistance training with bands can also fortify muscles in the knees and hips.
Train Joints to Work Better
Chandler Stevens, founder of Ecosomatics, recommends incorporating simple foot exercises for the feet to help your body's musculoskeletal system support the hips and knees. Each of your feet has 30 separate joints that spend most of the day immobilized in rigid-soled shoes and walking on flat surfaces.
"When the feet are deficient, hips and knees take the burden," he says. "The other thing to consider might be that somatic work, in general, can be a huge boost for walking because it helps our joints communicate more effectively with each other. When that communication breaks down, we have 'bottlenecks' in places like the knees, hips, or low back where the force from each step is blocked. Over time that can lead to overuse injuriesвЂ¦ even with minimal use."
Stevens recommends simple exercises such as lifting the big toe with the other four remaining on the floor and then raising the four outer toes while the big toes stay on the ground. Focus on providing firm footing to ensure that your knees and hips can take and dispel the force placed on them in the healthy manner in which they are designed, reducing the potential for injury.