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Exercise with troublesome knees (and other limitations) -- Ideas?


Jenny in Florida
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I'm not a spring chicken. I'm turning 54 next month. I've lost 60-ish pounds in the last couple of years, bringing me down from "obese" to "overweight" in terms of BMI, but I would need to lose another 15-20 to get into the normal range, which isn't likely to happen. About a year ago, I jumped into the exercise thing maybe a little too enthusiastically and hurt one knee doing Zumba classes, After months of following doctor's orders and babying the knee and letting it heal, things are better. Both knees still strain easily, though, so I have to be careful.

In recent months, I've developed some nephropathy in my feet and lower legs. I'm seeing a neurologist and have had a bunch of testing done. The current theory is that there may be some kind of issue with my back that is causing the problem, although I am not aware of any significant back pain. Until we figure out what's going on, though, I would be nervous about attempting anything too strenuous. I have been told by my doctors that walking and swimming are both good for me.

I walk every day, usually at least a couple of miles in the morning and then the equivalent of two or three more just going about my day at work. I really like to walk, but there is a limit to how much time I can devote to that every day. I don't have a pool at home, but my husband and I have been trying to swim once a week when we can get to the pool at his employer's recreation area. 

We just came back from a three-day staycation during which I swam each day and walked about twice my usual number of steps, and I realized how much I am craving more intense (or maybe just more) exercise.

The challenges are that I work full time and am taking online classes towards a graduate degree, which means a lot of my hours are spoken for, and I have a dog at home whom I really don't want to be away from any more than I already am. Combine those things with the physical limitations mentioned above, and I can't quite figure out how to increase my amount or level of exercise.

Certain things that sound like they would make sense -- going to the pool more often or joining a gym -- won't work because I would have to leave the dog home alone too much.

Other things -- transitioning from walking to jogging -- are not viable options because of the knees and back stuff.

Yet other things -- substituting aqua exercise classes for the generic weekly swimming trip -- haven't worked out because I can't find any options in the area that don't require paying a hefty membership fee.

Does anyone have thoughts or ideas for me? 

 

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My dr recommended rowing. It's low impact, full body, and would be a good complement to walking. You can make it as hard or easy as you need. My DH loves it! He goes fast and hard. I can do it with something to watch on tv, much like walking on a treadmill.

We did splurge for the gym quality machine though after lots of recommendations to do so. We've been very happy with the quality. 

I enjoy jumping on my rebounder with some good dance music. Not sure about knees, but I think it's pretty low impact.  

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Swimming laps.

But I totally hear you about the pain in the behind about trying to find a pool with hours that works. I finally gave up on the 3x/week lap swimming about 4 years back. The neighborhood community pool was only open during the summer, AND I had to find a partner to go with me because I refuse to swim alone. Before that, I used the Parks & Rec pools, but the last 5 years of doing that were a royal pain, what with the economy going south, which forced rotating closed days, cut-backs on hours, and complete pool closures for 6 weeks over the winter holidays. I felt like I was *always* in the state of starting over. Again. And again.

Edited by Lori D.
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1 hour ago, Lori D. said:

Swimming laps.

But I totally hear you about the pain in the behind about trying to find a pool with hours that works. I finally gave up on the 3x/week lap swimming about 4 years back. The neighborhood community pool was only open during the summer, AND I had to find a partner to go with me because I refuse to swim alone. Before that, I used the Parks & Rec pools, but the last 5 years of doing that were a royal pain, what with the economy going south, which forced rotating closed days, cut-backs on hours, and complete pool closures for 6 weeks over the winter holidays. I felt like I was *always* in the state of starting over. Again. And again.

 

Oh yeah, swimming would totally be my first choice. Unfortunately, we have no community pool, and the house we are renting is outside the city limits, meaning we don't have access to the city pools. Unless I am willing to pay membership fees for a gym or the YMCA (which ain't cheap), my only access to a pool is the recreation facility run by my husband's employer. It's a 15-minute drive each way, meaning it costs me half an hour of hanging-with-my-dog time in addition to whatever time I swim, and the pool doesn't open until noon every day, which puts a big dent in the middle of any day I try to make it there.

Hence the fact that I manage to swim only one day a week . . . assuming it doesn't happen to rain during that small weekly window. (I do live in Florida, after all.)

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Do you think the dog situation is long term or short term?

 

That is to say, in like 6 months do you anticipate being able to leave the dog alone for 6 extra hours a week (3 swimming sessions, say), or is it one of those dogs that will always need people to be with it as much as possible, in which case you need a long term alternative to your preferred exercise?

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1 minute ago, Jenny in Florida said:

 

Oh yeah, swimming would totally be my first choice. Unfortunately, we have no community pool, and the house we are renting is outside the city limits, meaning we don't have access to the city pools. Unless I am willing to pay membership fees for a gym or the YMCA (which ain't cheap), my only access to a pool is the recreation facility run by my husband's employer. It's a 15-minute drive each way, meaning it costs me half an hour of hanging-with-my-dog time in addition to whatever time I swim, and the pool doesn't open until noon every day, which puts a big dent in the middle of any day I try to make it there.

Hence the fact that I manage to swim only one day a week . . . assuming it doesn't happen to rain during that small weekly window. (I do live in Florida, after all.)


Yes, the community pool is not an option for me, due to high cost and only open in summer (and having to find someone to go with me).

The 2 closest city pools to me are also 15 min. away in opposite directions, but I was willing to do it when they were open enough days of the week/hours a day to fit it in. And, it's $2/adult, which seems like a lot to me when you're hardly open and I have to make a huge effort to make it during their little windows of availability. And on quite a few occasions arrived and discovered this was a random closure day due to budget cuts. sigh.

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Well if you are in Florida I suppose cross country skiing is out of the question. ?

The rowing machine would be fantastic. I don't know how expensive they are but it would be a more full body workout than a lot of things. Plus it may allow you to explore down there if you are into that. I'd advise checking the used market first.

Before moving to jogging I'd say biking. You can move up in speed without the rough impact on knees that jogging has. The important thing would be to have a proper fitting bike. If your seat is too low it will put more pressure on your knees. Also, be willing to gear down so you get more cardio and it will be easier on your knees.

Edited by frogger
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19 minutes ago, moonflower said:

Do you think the dog situation is long term or short term?

 

That is to say, in like 6 months do you anticipate being able to leave the dog alone for 6 extra hours a week (3 swimming sessions, say), or is it one of those dogs that will always need people to be with it as much as possible, in which case you need a long term alternative to your preferred exercise?

 

Definitely long term. This dog is my best buddy, and both of us suffer when we have to spend more time apart than necessary. When I adopted her, she was a puppy and I was a homeschooling mom. She spent her days lounging at my feet under my desk or riding along in the car as I ran kids around to various activities and made 1600-mile road trips taking my daughter to and from college. 

Then my son graduated, and I went back to work. I need to work for both financial and emotional reasons, but it literally hurts my heart every time I have to say goodbye to her and head out the door. I even find it challenging to go on vacation because I miss her when I'm gone. 

She's also always been kind of a nervous handful of a dog, and her behavior deteriorates when I'm away too often. 

Edited by Jenny in Florida
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21 minutes ago, Jenny in Florida said:

 

Definitely long term. This dog is my best buddy, and both of us suffer when we have to spend more time apart than necessary. When I adopted her, she was a puppy and I was a homeschooling mom. She spent her days lounging at my feet under my desk or riding along in the car as I ran kids around to various activities and made 1600-mile road trips taking my daughter to and from college. 

Then my son graduated, and I went back to work. I need to work for both financial and emotional reasons, but it literally hurts my heart every time I have to say goodbye to her and head out the door. I even find it challenging to go on vacation because I miss her when I'm gone. 

Do you have a doggy daycare nearby?   Like you, we've had our older dog since the kids were little, and  I was at home nearly all of the time.  He's alone a lot more than we'd like these days.   Doggy daycare a couple of times a week has been a good fit for us.   Maybe it would work for your family too.  

Edited by Starfish
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42 minutes ago, Starfish said:

Do you have a doggy daycare nearby?   Like you, we've had our older dog since the kids were little, and  I was at home nearly all of the time.  He's alone a lot more than we'd like these days.   Doggy daycare a couple of times a week has been a good fit for us.   Maybe it would work for your family too.  

 

She is afraid of other dogs. She just likes her people.

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Exercise bike in the house.  They don't have to take up a lot of room, and you can read while you're exercising so it's not so boring.

Also, I have an older Healthrider, the kind that is similar to a rowing machine, and I love it.  It's smooth and aerobic and it works my abs a bit plus it generally stretches me out in all directions.  I put an Amazon Prime video on the computer, set it on a bed, and watch while riding.

But you know what?  Seriously, consider paying the hefty membership fee and doing the swimming if you like it.  One of my biggest regrets in life is not doing exactly that as I have gone along, and habitually putting it off to my health detriment.  If you can manage it, do it.  You're worth it.

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Lift weights. It will help you gain muscle which burns more calories than fat. You might gain weight at first, but it is a healthy weight, and then you will lose weight. Plus it can be quick - 20 minutes a day would do it. I go every other day for 45 minutes. I suggest you join a gym. A lot have good deals if there aren't classes, etc.. Check out your community center.

I have a rotten foot and have not done cardio in three weeks (I had been swimming or walking an hour a day previously) but have kept the weight training going and have lost 1/2 pound. And I am eating. 

 

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Strength training for your legs should help with strength imbalance that might aggravate your knees.  Can you do squats or lunges?  If those hurt too much, then start with lying leg raises, side lying leg lifts, bridges, clam shells and calf raises. Also spend some time working on your balance.  Do these exercises at least 3 sets of 10 reps, adding weight or resistance bands as you are able.  Start with no weight and work up to it.   Don't forget to stretch!! There are some good cool down and stretch workouts on fitnessblender.com  

You want to get to a strong core, strong hip, hamstring/quad and calf muscles to support that knee and keep everything in its place.  

I would also work on your upper body as you are able just because it will make you feel so great!!!  ? 

Edited by cintinative
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there's "chair" yoga, or yoga aimed at elderly/arthritic.  you would have to look - but it is there and it is helpful.  it helps with flexibility, balance, and even with arthritis discomfort.

dh added some balance exercises to his routine - and he snicked when as part of his physical he was asked how many times he's fallen.  - never.

My sister (who had a knee replacement at 55 and walks with a cane) - swims.

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I second Nordic Walking! You will burn more calories per mile and it is easier on the joints and back. If you think there is a pinched nerve in your back I would avoid rowing and bouncing until you get a doctor's advice. After my herniated disc and pinched nerve I've given up rebounding and mountain biking in favor or Nordic Walking and Pilates. I also ordered a recumbent stationary bike that hopefully arrives this week to get more cardio without stressing my back. Coincidentally I'm also 54. I love swimming on vacation but I never seem to get to a pool during ordinary time, plus the pools around me are cold.

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19 hours ago, frogger said:

The rowing machine would be fantastic. I don't know how expensive they are but it would be a more full body workout than a lot of things. Plus it may allow you to explore down there if you are into that. I'd advise checking the used market first.


I love rowing, but most people who don't actually row (in a boat, on the water) use the machines completely wrong.  I row on the water twice a week and with other competitive rowers on machines all winter, and form is really important. We spend a chunk of every workout reinforcing good form.  I was just on a cruise and went to the gym there to use the rowing machine - oy, the stuff I saw there.  They all thought they knew what they were doing.  Hard and fast is not what it's about.  But it is a great workout, and if you're doing it right, is low-impact and full body and great calories burned for the amount of time you put in.   I'm 53, and it's an activity you can do till you're way older.  If you can find an actual rowing club, I like the water even way better than the machine.  Most clubs have learn-to-row classes - in fact, if you could find one of those it would also teach you proper form on the machine even if you don't want to be on the water.  I don't like most kinds of exercise, but I actually find rowing so.much.fun.

Pilates is also great.  I do that as well.  That will strengthen your core and teach you to use your muscles properly to avoid injury in other sports or activities you do.

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I second the rowing machine idea -- around here they are often advertised used very cheap.

And also biking -- either a stationary one or an actual one with one of those stands that convert it to stationary.  My NYC brother-in-law rides his when the weather is good and pops it in the stand and uses it at home when the weather is bad.

One of my knees has troubled me for years, but I can do elliptical without trouble.  Maybe try it a few times in a gym and then keep your eye open for a used one.  We have one at home and it's really nice being able to fit it in at odd times.

And just setting aside a regular 15 minute slot to do sit-ups, push-ups and planks makes a surprising difference.

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